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What you should know before purchasing materials abroad

By Njange Maina
Sunday, January 19th, 2020
Construction
Truss of an ongoing construction

By People Reporter

The Far East has increasingly become the ultimate source of building materials, especially finishes. And the savings are there if you go to China, although not assured. Here is why.

First, you are to ensure that your quantities make sense because purchasing from China only makes sense for large quantities. Your small residential house might not enjoy the savings as would a large shopping mall because the quantities of floor tiles are in the thousands.

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Further, small quantities are not always acceptable by the manufacturers or distributors in China who insist on minimum order levels. You also want to ensure that the cost savings you will make will cover your travel expenses and all logistics associated with the imports if at all you are to benefit from this arrangement.

And of course the quantities also must make economic sense for sea transport by container as well as to justify the efforts and time taken. Secondly, you will note that this is a cash-heavy transaction. And with most of it paid upfront, you will need to be ready before you travel.

And oh, this paying upfront becomes complicated when the goods delivered are not to your satisfaction because there are no refunds. Most importantly, beware of the quality you are purchasing. Inspect before packing, and keep samples of what you are purchasing.

If possible, sign a contract that will spell all your requirements; after all, you are the client. Remember, language can be a barrier and a local translator (who does not come for free) is a necessity.

And with all documents and instructions written in Chinese Mandarin and you just need to remember to ask for the English version lest they are all indecipherable. And like any offshore purchase, you need to be ready with taxes and duties to clear your goods once they land at the Coast.

Please note that any delays at the port attract demurrage charges, which can be quite punitive. Oh, did I mention that you need to work with a shipping agency in China who will handle your goods from the manufacturers’ warehouse?

Notably, the commonest terms are FOB- Free on Board. Of course when they land in the country, you will be expected to arrange your own local transport.

With a contribution from Anka Consultants