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We had a meeting last week to with Fedex to see if they could help us with our air freight to the US. You can’t just go to Fedex here and ship a box if you want courier service, first of all. You have to set up an account with them, which involves the usually bureaucracy here; copies of your ID, your business tax license, and a number of other forms. If you plan to live and do business in Ecuador, you better get used to more paper than you’ve ever seen in your entire lifetime.
To get cargo service, which means you’re planning to ship something like 100kgs or more by air freight, you have to apply for yet another level of service, and you have to provide estimates about what kind of volume/weight you think you’ll be shipping, how frequently, to where, and to how many addresses. They can’t give you air freight rates right off the bat, because this information first has to be sent to their regional headquarters up in Bogota, and then up to Miami…the chain of command. Supposedly it takes three to four weeks for them to get back to you with air freight rates. I have some friends in another business who have been waiting three to four MONTHS. So we gave it our best shot, estimate that is, and we’re in week two of waiting for the rates.
However, we’ve already decided that we WON’T be using Fedex, or Fedex’s contractor, who operates the service for them here under the Fedex name. This is because they request a number of documents that are not only a hassle to get, but are unnecessary for export, yet they insist on having them. In particular, the Registro Sanitario, which I have discussed in a number of other entries.
Logically speaking, there is no reason why anyone should need this document for export. It’s a document that is purely to certify that products for consumption in Ecuador are fit for consumption locally; when you export something, it’s usually up to the country it’s being imported into to decide whether that item should be allowed in. The FDA plays this particular role in the US. But no one seems to understand that here. If you ask five different people involved in export if the Registro Sanitario is needed to export a food item to the US, you’ll most likely get about five different answers.
Fedex’s transport subcontractor requires the Registro Sanitario. We’ve got an air freight broker who has regularly shipped all kinds of products out of the country, and no registro sanitario is required. So we’re going with him. We can’t afford to do it any other way, given that a RS takes several hundred dollars and several months to obtain. We have another export project coming up with a number of different products; to get RSs for each of them would take months and thousands of dollars.
It’s typical of Ecuador, as I’ve discussed, that things are arbitrary, there are no clear guidelines, and no one seems to be able to give you the same answer twice; this can depend on who you are talking to, the time of day, the mood of the person, the alignment of the stars and planets, the season, and a number of other random factors.
It’s a real shame that US companies can’t get their overseas counterparts or contractors to operate with the same service level they do in the US.