The manufacturing and labour costs are much lower in Thailand than in Australia. It’s no surprise that many small businesses prefer to import to save money.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has released statistics showing that the import trade from Thailand averages just over AUD 15 billion annually. This ranks Thailand as the 5th country in terms of merchandise trade in Australia.
This guide will help you discover how to identify, source, and import goods from Thailand to sell in Australia.
Importing from Thailand — The process
Here’s what you need to do if you want to import from Thailand.
- Obtain information on the types of goods you are allowed to import and carry out market research.
- Explore online marketplaces of manufacturers and suppliers to source the goods you want.
- Carry out due diligence on your supplier and sign a contract with them.
- Arrange for shipping and logistics from Thailand to Australia.
- Understand the various regulations, tariffs, and licenses you need to export.
- On arrival of your goods in Australia you pay the necessary duty, tariffs, and any other fees.
- Market your goods for sale in Australia.
Dealing with importing, international shipping, tariffs, licenses and more can be tricky. We strongly recommend bringing someone into your business who has experience and knowledge in the field.
What can you import from Thailand to Australia?
Before you decide to import an item, make sure you understand the market. Conduct market surveys and explore market trends in Australia.
Here are some hints and tips:
Avoid food and perishables — Due to Australia’s strict bio-security regulations, it can be difficult to import produce. It can be pricey to import good that can be spoiled as special containers are required too.
- Avoid importing products that are widely available already — It’s likely those types of items are purchased in bulk by big importers, and you’ll never be able to match them on price.
Source items based on your prospective market, not the other way around — Explore what your customers are looking for and look for products based on those conclusions.
Understand your margins and pricing — Importing can make your margins thinner. Take time to understand all of your costs (variable and fixed) so you can incorporate them into your pricing strategy and make a profit.
Sourcing goods from Thailand
There are a selection of Thai suppliers to choose from. These include:
- Global Sources – Thailand Sources
- Department of International Trade Promotion Ministry of Commerce, Thailand
- Many more…
Once you know the types of products you’re after, make a shortlist of suppliers. Next, you’ll want to:
- Read reviews on the suppliers including their customer service, the quality of the goods they provide, and any issues others have had with them.
- Contact the suppliers and request a sample of the goods you’re interested in. When you receive the sample have it independently appraised to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.
- Ask the supplier about their terms for payment, how long it will take them to send the product to you, what protections and guarantees you have, and what their policies are on returns.
- Complete any other due diligence, and if you’re satisfied, sign a contract with them.
Typical container costs — Shipping from Thailand to Australia
If you’re only purchasing a small quantity or your items aren’t too heavy or bulky, consider air freighting them back to Australia. If you’re buying larger quantities, you’ll probably have to use a shipping contain
The Sea Freight Calculator lists the cost of renting a full container from Thailand to Australia as approximately:
- 20 ft container — $1,300 USD
- 40 ft container — $1,700 US
And according to Australia Trade, renting part of a container will cost you between $150 and $250 AUD per cubic meter or 1,000 kilos, whichever is greater.
However, these are purely the costs to ship goods from Thailand to Australia. Once you get them here you’ll need to pay for getting your goods to a warehouse, storage, insurance, duties, and other fees.
Understanding government regulations on goods imported from Thailand into Australia
It’s crucial to understand trade regulations imposed by Australia before importing. To learn more, read this comprehensive guide.
Some of these include:
- A required special permit when importing certain chemicals, pharmaceuticals, produce and others.
- Plant and animal goods may need to be quarantined.
- Tariffs, duties, and taxes may apply — More on that below.
- Some importers may be due for concessions from the government.
- Free trade agreements could work to your advantage.
- Be aware of additional costs.
- Label goods correctly.
For full details, please do check out our guide to importing into Australia.
Understand costs to import from Thailand
It’s important to factor import costs to your overall costs. These fees and charges typically consists of:
- The cost of buying the product.
- Shipping, logistics, and distribution costs.
- Tariffs and duties due to Thailand on export and Australia on import.
- Taxes and tariffs on your imported goods. Spend some time learning about:
Generally, you will have to pay import duty and GST on goods valued over $1,000 AUD.
- Import entry costs and processing charges – Customs will charge you a fee (typically under $200 AUD) for processing your goods.
- Customs import duty is calculated as a percentage of the price you paid for the goods. The duty rate can range from 0% to 10%, but the rate for most goods is 5%.
- Goods and services sales tax (GST) will also be charged based on the following:
- The valuation of the goods plus;
- The customs import duty amount plus;
- The cost of insuring the goods and transporting them to Australia.
- GST is charged at 10% of the final amount.
Note that this information is intended as a general guide – fees and charges can be influenced by what you’re bringing in, excise taxes, free trade agreements, and many other factors. Please check with customs based on your individual circumstance.
Certain types of goods are eligible for concessions (reducing the amount of duty you need to pay). You can find a full list and requirements through this page, just look for “List of current tariff concession orders.” You’ll also find additional details on concession schemes here.
Paying for your goods in foreign currency
Doing import business from Thailand is usually done in US dollars or Thai Baht.
If you are bringing goods in from Thailand, consider OFX.
They specialise in international payments and receipts for Australian businesses.
Each client has a personal manager and access to a range of useful products like Forward Exchange Contracts, Options, Limit Orders and Currency Options.
OFX is a trusted partner of The Currency Shop.
Click on this link , sign up and never pay a transfer fee for your international money transfers. Ever.
OFX charges no transaction fees. Minimum transfer A$250. Third party intermediary fees may still apply.
What about receiving money in foreign currency?
Until recently, Australian businesses had 3 options to receive money from overseas customers:
- Get paid into a local Australian based, Australian dollar account.
- Open a Foreign Currency Account, usually with a bank
- Use a payment gateway like PayPal, Braintree or Stripe
Unfortunately, these options are usually filled with fees, balance requirements or massive exchange rate mark-ups.
In October 2017, TransferWise released the Borderless account in Australia and it’s really impressive. It allows you to receive, hold and transfer 27 different currencies.
The unique feature though, which is particuarly useful for businesses, is the ability to have local bank account details in USD, EUR, GBP or AUD. This makes receiving money from customer abroad, exceptionally ease.
Sell your products
Once you’ve received your goods from Thailand, market them and offer them for sale. Continue to research your markets, source goods, and sell them onwards at a profit, Good luck!
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