Packing, Marking & Labeling

 Most imports require certain labeling and packaging requirements, especially food products.

Labeling Requirements:
Production and expiration dates must be clearly shown on the package. Information on the label cannot be easily erased, scratched or altered. Information must be written in Arabic also. Dates are accepted in English, but the words "production" and "expiry" must be written in Arabic. The label must include: -

  • Name and address of manufacturer;

  • Brand or trade mark (if applicable);

  • Country of origin, type of product;

  • Name and address of importer;

  • Production and expiration dates;

  • Product use instructions (optional);

  • Ingredients;

  • Storage instructions or storage temperature;

  • Net weight;

  • Gross weight and total number of packages per case or carton;

  • If preservatives are being used- percentages of each preservative must be indicated;

  • If meat or poultry, the statement that the meat "is slaughtered according to Islamic ritual" or "Halal," must be included; and

  • For meat or poultry, all products must be in packaged and sealed bags. Labels must be inserted inside the package as well as on the outside. The label on the meat must include the following:

  • Country of origin

  • Producer’s name and logo

  • Name of slaughterhouse

  • Slaughter date

  • Name and address of importer

  • Name of entity, which issued the “Islamic slaughter” definition.

The Commercial Office in the Egyptian Embassy or Consulate in the country where the product originated must then approve all these labeling requirements.

Packaging Requirements:
Article 74 of the Import and Export regulations stipulates that the package should be fit for preserving the product, and the product should occupy the space of the container in full. If a container is wooden, the container itself should be accompanied by an official certificate that states it is free from wood-harmful pests and insects.

Multiple Product Samples:
Sampling and inspection duties are mainly carried out by the General Organization for Import and Export Control GOIEC, however, some products may be subject to inspection by other concerned institutions. GOIEC has been authorized to assume inspection and certification functions without referral to any higher authority, but for the food industry, for example, there are 3-4 bodies involved that have the right to take samples from any imported shipment. They are:

  • The Radiation Department of the Ministry of Energy and Electricity

  • The Ministry of Health

  • The Ministry of Agriculture (Veterinary Office)

  • The Ministry of Supply (Import and Export Control)

Each agency draws its own sample and tests it independently.

Import Requirements and Documentation
For an imported shipment to be accepted at Customs in Egypt, the shipment must have the following documents:

  1. Commercial Invoice: 2 copies plus the original document are required. Legalization by the Egyptian consulate in the country of origin is required in most cases.

  2. Certificate of Origin: 2 copies plus the original document are required. The Certificate of Origin must be authenticated by the Egyptian consulate in the country of origin. Natural products are considered to originate in the country where the goods are extracted. The Certificate of Origin must bear a statement that the information given is true and correct to the best of the shipper's knowledge.

  3. Packing list: Packing list may be required by the consignee and is recommended in most cases.

  4. Bill of lading: The number of bills of lading required depends upon the carrier. There are no regulations specifying the form or number of bills of lading required for shipment. A bill of lading must show the name of the shipper, the address and the number of bills of lading issued.

  5. Pro forma invoice: This is an invoice required by the importer for submission along with the import license. It must show the country where the goods were manufactured.

  6. Letter of Credit: The Central Bank of Egypt in March 1999 advised all banks operating in Egypt that L/Cs must be covered 100% in cash by the importer. This replaced the previous procedure whereby banks and their clients reached their own agreements and covered, usually 10-20% of L/C’s value. In general, the exporter may not ship the goods before the Egyptian bank has notified the opening of a L/C. If the goods are shipped before the LC is opened, the importer runs the risk of being fined up to a maximum of the value of the goods. If the importer does not bear the cost, then the exporter will have lost the value of such a shipment, and in the case of products with a shelf-life, the delay at the customs can mean that even if the exporter (e.g. a U.S. company) wanted to take back the shipment, it’s no longer of any use.

  7. Content analysis of the commodity: Required for those products which may be subject to standards testing.

Ministerial Decree 619 of 1998 required imports to be accompanied by a certification of origin and stipulated that consumer goods (durable and non-durable) be shipped directly from the country of origin. Decree 619 subsequently was adjusted in late 1999 to allow the shipment of imported consumer goods from the main branches of the producing company and its distribution centers. Regulations also were implemented to facilitate the ability of firms to meet the requirement for a certificate of origin. This requirement can now be fulfilled with a company invoice noting the country of origin and bearing the endorsement of an Egyptian overseas commercial office. Since May 1999, the Central Bank of Egypt has required 100% coverage for credit lines opened for goods imported by traders for resale purposes.

Egypt no longer requires import licenses for most products, although licenses are still required for some products, such as animal products.

Customs valuation, Regulation and Contact Information
Egypt announced implementation of the WTO customs valuation system in July 2001. The system has not been fully implemented yet due to its complexity, and importers sometimes face a confusing mix of the new invoice-based and old reference-price valuation systems depending on the type of imports. The Ministry of Finance is trying to assist customs officials by translating and simplifying the WTO valuation system, which uses seven valuation methods. The Ministry of Finance has committed to a comprehensive program to reform the customs system, and a priority is to implement the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement.

The September 2003 inauguration of the Model Customs and Tax Center (MCTC) was an important step in modernizing customs and tax administration in Egypt. The Cairo MCTC is a “one-stop shop” where taxpayers registered in Greater Cairo can settle income taxes, sales taxes and customs for goods passing through any of Egypt's ports. Another model customs center will be established in Alexandria in 2005.

Customs procedures, designed to eliminate trading loopholes, are still cumbersome and rigid in areas such as duty rates. They are subjective when it comes to identifying whether a commodity fits in one tariff category or another.

Although on July 1, 2001, the Egyptian Customs Authority officially announced beginning of implementation of the invoice-or transaction value-based procedures in accordance with the WTO valuation agreement, the system is not yet being implemented, and customs agents have great discretion in valuating incoming shipments.

As under-invoicing is prevalent in Egypt as a means of tax-avoidance by local businesses, the Customs Authority has a tough policy regarding commercial invoices. Tariff valuation is based on either the worldwide price list received annually from foreign producers/distributors, or if that is not available, they take the highest price available in the local market. In cases where customs officials suspect under-invoicing, they usually add from 10 to 30% (called improvement percentage) to the invoice value. Importers have the right to take legal action against Custom Authorities in the event of a dispute regarding appropriate valuation, including arbitration which takes fifteen days or more. During that time, the disputed shipments are withheld and the importer has to pay fees as deposit until arbitration is over.

Customs officials suspect under-invoicing when legitimate sellers low-ball introductory prices of samples, then send larger quantities at higher prices; offer one price for a few items, and a quantity discount for subsequent shipments; or introduce a new product at a basic cost much cheaper than similar products previously imported from other sources.

The Egyptian Government has established a “white list” of importers who, under some conditions, are able to avoid full inspection of their shipments.

The ability to fulfill local content requirements is no longer required to obtain an approval to set up an assembly project. However, assembly industries must meet a minimum local content requirement of 45% in order to benefit from customs tariff reductions on imported industrial inputs.

A decree on computerized customs procedures has been issued for imported goods. The Customs Authority has begun applying a Computerized Customs Declaration Form (Bill of Entry) which intends to facilitate and simplify importers’ dealings with the Customs Authority and to avert problems or differences in customs evaluation.

Although the new adjustments were aimed at fixing impediments in the current Customs Law, businessmen state that there are a number of other problems still deforming the existing Customs Law which need to be fixed, including customs tariff discrepancies, application of exemptions, arbitration, valuation, wastage goods, preference agreements, export problems, slowness of guarantees and deposits procedures, cumbersome customs procedures, customs expediters and representatives problems, cancellation of immediate audits, and administrative problems.

Current importing regulations require that every component of a product be inspected, regardless of the compliance history of the product, country of origin, exporter, shipper or the importer. No import can be put up for direct sale on the Egyptian market without first proving that it conforms to Egyptian standards, if it is on the mandatory list. If there are no Egyptian standards that suit the imported product, then it must be defined using the standards of one of the international organizations that Egypt is affiliated with e.g. ISO, IEC, and Codex Alimentarius. On arrival of a shipment to the Egyptian ports, the process that takes place is as follows:

  1. A committee from the Customs and Security bodies checks the shipment for security reasons and determines whether there are any illegal products.

  2. The importer presents Customs with the documentation required to clear the shipment.

  3. After reviewing these documents, Customs either clears the shipments for release to the importer directly or directs the consignment to other bodies for testing and inspection. Custom duties are then assigned and are paid in Egyptian pounds.