How to import Japanese Sake? A guide to help Japanese Sake importers
Japan based Licensed Sake distributor and Japanese Sake exporter of smaller Artisan breweries with generations of history and awards, targeting Sake importers Japan based Licensed Sake distributor and Japanese Sake exporter of smaller Artisan breweries with generations of history and awards, targeting Sake importers

How to import Japanese Sake.

So you are interested in the import of Japanese Sake-that’s great and considering the Global Sake market, a good idea. But you may be confused about how to import. Here we hope we can help. This is a brief guide to help solve or reduce any concerns you may have, and to highlight any problems that may occur before and during the import process. Firstly: Make sure you have the appropriate documents and licences to import Japanese Sake. This can be simple in countries such as Hong Kong or Singapore where you only pay money or can involve more paperwork such as in USA.

Next we recommend you quickly (you don’t need to go into detail) check shipping costs. Sakeportal recommends this because most companies will markup the shipping of Japanese Sake as well as the Sake itself (obviously Sakeportal doesn’t!) so to make sure you are, in effect, not paying double, get some quick quotes yourself so you have an idea of shipping costs.

 

Shipping of Japanese Sake damages

You should have few problems in regard to damages with the transport of Sake.  The exporter (for example Sakeportal!) should ensure the Sake is packed properly to avoid damages.

By air transport Sakeportal  can not stress enough that you make sure the Sake case is repackaged or the bottle is made safe to avoid damages. Please, please check with your exporter that they will do this and any costs to do this.

By sea make sure your exporter uses reliable shipping partners that have experience or the same regard for safety and procedures to avoid damages. Paying a little extra for a good shipping service will solve any problems when the goods arrive (both for damages and for a smooth customs process).

Of course this does not 100% mean that accidents by shipping companies will not occur but it will greatly reduce the risk if you go with a company that has reliable shipping partners.

With regard to temperatures: Japanese Sake copes well in temperature ranges from 0-40°C so shipping by air is generally not a problem. By sea, the temperature may go above 40°C depending on the route and the season. The Sake will not go bad or go off but the taste may change slightly as the liquid could start to ferment again. The difference in cost for normal non-refrigerated sea shipping compared to refrigerated shipping is significant. Sakeportal always advises clients to assess the cost with the risk. It is up to the importer which option they choose.

 

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Importing Japanese Sake by boat or air?

For the below 1 case means 12x720ml bottles

There are 3 main ways of shipping Japanese Sake.

  1. By air
  2. FCL (full container load) by sea
  3. LCL (less than 1 container)  load by sea

With Sakeportal there is a 4th option of spare space shipping by sea. This is highly cost-efficient but does take longer.

  1. By air is usually a courier service such as FedEx. Sakeportal has a discount DHL supplier who offers discount rates for shipping by this method.
  2. FCL basically means that your order will fill the whole container-this is a lot of Sake! For a standard 20 foot container it is 10 pallets of Sake.
  3. LCL means that your pallet/pallets will be shipped with other pallets in 1 container.

In terms of pricing, shipping by air is more cost-effective in lower quantities (up to 20 or 25 cases of Sake). It starts to become more cost-effective to ship by sea at around 33 cases. This is because 33 cases is 1 R/T (a shipping term for weight/size). There are many associated sea costs that remain the same whether you order 1 R/T (33 cases) or under 1 R/T. So, shipping 10-20 cases by sea will incur all the associated costs that are the same as shipping 33 cases. Therefore shipping lower quantities by sea is usually more expensive than by air.

 

Shipping time

Simply it is time Vs cost. By air is the most expensive (unless it is for lower volumes) but the quickest, and by sea is the cheapest but the slowest.

With Sakeportal cheaper than that is the spare space shipping offered by our freight partner. This means that when there is empty space on the boat, they will transport the Sake. It is the cheapest option but delivery time is not guaranteed, it maybe the same as normal sea shipping or 30% longer.

 

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I want to import Japanese Sake but what is FOB, CIF, DAP….and which do I choose!

OK so these acronyms are incoterms-but easy to understand.

FOB (Free on Board)

This means the exporter is responsible for shipping the Sake to the domestic port, and generally for loading on the boat. In some circumstances the importer may have facilities to do the loading and so the exporter only delivers the Sake to the port “door”.

For most businesses this is not the case, so in a normal situation:

The exporter will ship to the port and pay the domestic port charges for loading. Their responsibility finishes there. Please ensure it is clear the exporter is paying for the domestic port costs before the process starts, although not significant, you don’t want to suddenly have to pay the domestic charges because it was not agreed!

In this situation the importer is liable for the Sake after loading so maritime insurance is a must! It is very cheap and worthwhile.

CIF (Cost, Insurance, and Freight)

This means the exporter is liable for the Sake throughout the sea journey. Generally this responsibility finishes when the boat arrives at the destination port but some importers will stipulate the responsibility changes when the Sake is actually in the importers possession.

So in a normal situation:

The exporter will deliver the Sake to the domestic port, arrange shipping and insurance. The Sake will reach the destination port and it is then the importers responsibility to unload, pay port costs, ensure customs clearance etc. As for FOB make sure it is clear who is paying what port costs.

DAP (Delivered at Place)

This means that the Sake is delivered to your address. This is usually only for air (courier) shipping method but can be done for sea shipping depending on the exporter’s shipping partners network. The only problem with Japanese Sake is that in some countries the label may need to be changed for b2b in order to clear customs. The changing of label is the responsibility of the importer under FOB and CIF because the exporters responsibility stops before the Sake goes through customs. With DAP the responsibility needs to be defined. Usually, as the importer is in the “home” country, the label change will be agreed, signed off and ensured correct by the importer and before shipping, so again, it is the responsibility of the importer for any delays at customs due to improper labeling.

Duties/tariffs are payable by the importer on receiving the goods. To receive Sake with all duties/tariffs paid then the option is DDP though this is not a common shipping method.

 

Main points:

Import Sake documents

Temperature: If you are worried ship by refrigerated container

Time Vs Cost

Shipping methods FOB/CIF or DAP?

 

Ok that is about it. As we hope you can see it is not too difficult to import Japanese Sake and Sakeportal is always here to help with enquiries.

Take care!