Colombia - Selling and buying
Reaching the consumers
Every year the RADDAR group publishes a complete study of the consumer habits and profiles of Colombians, and the latest version is available on this link.
Colombians is strongly influenced by mode, brands and promotion, but there is also a strong influence of traditions on consumption habits.
Colombia offers consumers a complete range of sales channels. This range includes the traditional method by which wholesalers sell to traditional stores called "tiendas" which in turn sell to the public; but it also includes more sophisticated methods, such as department stores and hypermarkets, which have rapidly become popular.
Most imported items, especially capital equipment and raw materials, are bought by agents and distributors,and as regards domestic products, companies import them directly.
The traditional distribution, symbolized by local groceries and other small shops called "tiendas", witnessed the arrival of modern distribution networks: supermarkets, hypermarkets, shopping centers. Nowadays, these new circuits cover 60% of the distribution landscape. The leaders of mass distribution in the country are: the Casino group which has the Exito stores (more than 250 outlets) and Carrefour (more than 35 outlets).
The perspectives for the development of electronic commerce are promising.
The Colombian government has achieved encouraging results in its effort to fight smuggling.
Market access procedures
- Latin American Association of Integration - ALADI
- Andean Community - CAN -Colombia, Equator, Peru, Bolivia)
- CAN - Mercosur
- Central American and the Caribbeans
- FTA - Free Trade Agreement Colombia and Chile
- FTA Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras
- FTA Colombia, Peru and Canada
- FTA G2- Group of Two - Colombia and Mexico
- FTA Colombia and Peru - EFTA
- FTA Colombia and United States
- Trade Union CAN - UE
Colombia is part of the Pacific Alliance.
Import authorizations (automatic and licensed) are valid for 6 months, except for the following products: capital goods: 12 months; perishable foodstuffs: 2 months. The goods have to be claimed at Customs before the expiry date of the license.
Besides that, some products are subject to phytosanitary measures and the importer should be registered with a certain number of organizations: the Instituto Colombiano Agropecuario for plants and animal products, the INVIMA for medicines, medical underwear, cosmetics and the Ministry of Transport for all types of vehicles. Some farm products can be imported only when they get a visa from the Ministry of Agriculture, and as long as the importer also buys identical local products. According to local conditions, it is also possible that the Ministry does not permit the import of certain products during a given period.
The import of vehicles, tires, second hand clothes, violent toys is forbidden. The import of weapons is strictly limited to the army.
- The commercial invoice in quadruplicate; it must be drawn up in Spanish for preference and indicate besides the usual details: the value or exchange value of the goods in USD, the number of the “registro de importacion” (the certificate of registration of import) sent to the exporter by the Colombian consignee.
- The certificate of origin. It is drawn up on the community form.
- The certificate of non contamination by radioactivity, required for agrifood products and especially for milk, it is issued by the Departmental Directorate of veterinary services.
- The phytosanitary certificate, required for fruit, vegetables, seeds and other plants, it is issued by the Regional service for the protection of plants.
- The health certificate issued by the Departmental Directorate of veterinary services.
- The certificate of free sale for cosmetics..
Other products may be subject to the presentation of certificates of free sale to be registered in Colombia.
Colombia applies the Harmonized Customs System. Customs duties are calculated Ad Valorem on the CIF value. The scale of Customs duties (4 rates) was fixed within the framework of the Andean Pact and is applicable in Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. Bolivia is authorized to use 5% and 10% rates, and Peru benefits for the moment from an exemption.
- a 0% rate for the import of agrochemical products, paper, scientific and cultural press and books.
- a 5% rate for the import of raw materials and capital and intermediate equipment not produced in Colombia.
- 10% and 15% rates for capital and intermediate equipment produced in Colombia.
- a 20% rate for consumer goods.
There are exceptions, especially for cars, taxed at 35%, as well as some agricultural products (corn, rice, sugar, poultry...) which come under the "price band" regime or variable system of Customs duties. This system, set up by the Andean Pact, determines floor and ceiling prices and a reference price calculated on a CIF basis. If the reference price, calculated at the time of import, is lower than the floor price, there is a surcharge; if it is the opposite, the Customs duties are reduced.
Despite these set rules, calculating Customs duties in Colombia is complicated, because of the numerous agreements the country has signed. There are no fewer than ten or so tariffs possible for certain goods.
For further information on Customs duties in Colombia, you can consult the Colombian Customs website (in Spanish).
Organizing goods transport
Imported goods must be accompanied by the transport documents, packing list, and transport insurance. Colombian regulations make insuring consignments for the country compulsory. Wooden packaging entering Colombia must be treated (fumigated) and marked with the standard NIMP n°15.