In exporting, it is quite common for cargos to require a variety of certificates, including certificates of origin, certificates of value, certificates of health, Consular certificates, etc. before they are permitted to be imported into the country of destination. The purpose of a certificate is to provide preshipment confirmation of the status of a particular aspect (health, value, condition, origin, etc.) of a specific cargo. With these certificates, the cargo will not be permitted to be imported and so certificates paly a very important role in the export process and you need to ensure that (a) you have obtained the certificates required, (b) that these certificates are correct and acceptable to the importing authorities (i.e. that you cargo compliees with the requirements of the importing authority). It is no good having a certificate, but one which confirms that your cargo does not comply with the import requirements; your cargo will simply not be permitted to be imported. The types of certificates that you may be required to obtain, include:

Certificates of origin

A Certificate of Origin (C/O) is required by some countries and is intended to certify to the importing authorities as to which country the products being imported were manufactured in – that is, the C/O certifies that the imported product meets the ‘Country of Origin’ requirements set by the importing country and which are expected of their foreign suppliers. It may be required that the C/O include information such as local material and labour content. In many cases, a statement of origin printed on company letterhead will suffice, although the document may need to be certified in some way. In other instances, specific types of C/Os may be required, such as the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Form A and the Chamber of Commerce C/O.

Certificates of Value (and Origin)

A Certificate of Value is intended to confirm the value of a cargo to assist in quick clearing of the goods in the country of destination. Often the Certificate of value is combined with a Certificate of Origin and is referred to as a Certificate of Value and Origin (CVO). A CVO outlines details about the labour and packing costs, royalties or commissions (if applicable), freight charges and any overseas insurance costs. The CVO also provides an exporter’s declaration and statement, in the form of clauses, about the value and origin of the goods.

Fumigation certificate

Some countries, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US and the UK, are very strict about letting in goods that might contain bacteria or insects that could harm their agriculture. For this reason, they may require a fumigation certificate – also referred to as a ‘pest control certificate – as proof that the packing materials e.g. wooden crates, wood, wool etc., have been fumigated or sterilised. Fumigation certificates usually contain details such as purpose of treatment, the articles in question, temperature range used, chemicals and concentration used, etc. Sometimes they may be required for sea shipments, but not for air shipments. Your freight forwarder should be able to advise you as to whether you require such as certificate.

Certificates of health

Certificates of health are normally required by the importing country to ensure that the imported goods (plants, plant products, animals and animal products) are in good health and carry no diseases, pests or any health-threatening organisms. Such certificates of health confirm (a) the origin of the shipment and, (b) that local authorities have inspected the consignment and ensure its good health. Certificates of Health can be divided into two types:

  • Phytosanitary certificates which are required for the import of certain plants and plant products such as seeds and flowers. Phytosanitary certificates are governed by the International Plant Protection Convention and represent an internationally accepted means of pest risk mitigation.
  • Veterinary certificates which are required for the import of live animals, as well as fresh, chilled or frozen animal products. For contact details go to The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery website.

The exact import requirements are set by the importing country but are usually communicated to the corresponding authorities in South Africa (usually the Department of Agriculture). Your best option is therefore to contact both the importer to determine what the import requirements are and the Department of Agriculture to hear their side of the story. For Phytosanitary certificates, contact the Department of Agriculture at:

The local authorities may charge a fee for such inspections and issuing of certificates.

Pre-shipment inspection certificates

It is not uncommon for importers to want to confirm that the to-be-exported goods meet their requirements. This is particularly so in instances where it is essential that the goods meet certain standards. These same importers unfortunately cannot always fly to all the countries from where they are buying their products and for this reason, they may:

  1. Require that the shipment be inspected just before loading by an independent third-party arranged and generally paid for by the importer. The exporter will need to indicate an approximate time and place for this inspection to take place.
  2. Ask the exporter to obtain the pre-shipment inspection certificate from an independent third-party inspection firm which is then forwarded to the importer. In this instance either the exporter or the importer may pay for the inspection, depending what was negotiated in the contract.

The independent contractor – usually a recognised firm in this field – will undertake a detailed inspection of equipment or materials after manufacture, but prior to shipment. The scope of the inspection includes quantity and quality, packing and marking and supervision of loading. A Certificate of Inspection can be provided against a Letter of Credit and may be authorised by a Chamber of Commerce. Occasionally, the importer may ask a trusted individual to undertake the inspection on their behalf.

Furthermore, some countries may require certification for selected products (this is independently from the importer) and in these instances a pre-shipment inspection is a necessary step to receive an import certificate for the shipment. Without this certificate the shipment will not be able to clear customs in the country of destination.