Trading with regulated and prohibited goods
Each country has different requirements regarding what they classify as regulated, restricted or prohibited goods for import and export trade. For example, some countries might allow prescription medication or animal skin trade, while others do not. Sometimes, a country may prohibit a product for import, but only regulate it for export.
What is the difference between regulated and prohibited goods?
According to Customs, prohibited goods are goods that are not allowed to cross the border either out of or into the country. Attempting to import or export prohibit goods can lead to serious fines and even criminal charges.
Regulated goods are goods that are controlled by an import or export permit. These permits regulate either the quality or quantity of the goods. Quality permit restrictions are controlled by government departments such as the Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, or the Department of Environmental Affairs for example. Volume (quantity) permits are usually controlled by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) or the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC).
For imports, some products need to be sampled and tested before the import permit is issued. An example of this is when the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) is required to test a product for safety. The permit may only be issued once the SABS accepts the product as safe.
How do I know if my goods are regulated or prohibited?
The good news is that Customs has made it easy for importers and exporters to find out whether they are allowed to bring their goods into, or take them out of, the country.
Figure 1 below shows an excerpt from the Customs list of regulated and prohibited goods. An explanation of each section in the figure follows.
- Heading: This is the 4-digit number or the first 4 numbers of the HS/tariff code.
- Designation of goods: The description of the goods according to the category they fall into.
- Prohibition or restriction: Stipulates how the goods are controlled for import or export.
- Authority: Stipulates the law (Act) that authorises regulation or restriction of the goods.
- Action required/Detained for: Lists the authority that must be notified if the importer or exporter is stopped.
- Competent authority: The authority responsible for issuing the import/export permit.
- Customs mandate requirement: Outlines what Customs must look for when checking the imports/exports.
- Document requirement: States what Customs must see on the permit provided.
If the importer/exporter is not in possession of the applicable permit, then the goods will not be allowed into or out of the country. Should Customs need to store the goods for the duration it takes to obtain the necessary permit, the importer/exporter will accrue storage costs. Delays in Customs clearance due to incorrect documentation may also result in business losses due to lack of availability of the goods. It is therefore very important to make yourself aware of any restrictions and obtain a permit before Customs clearance.
You can look up prohibited or regulated items in our lookup guides below. Our office can obtain most permits for you.
For assistance with permits, enquire online or call 0861 0 TRADE (87233).