Masks, gloves, face shields, and other types of personal protective equipment (PPE) are in high demand right now.
Because of this, the prices for some PPE items have gone up by more than 1000%. This is according to a report by the Society for Healthcare Organization Procurement Professionals (SHOPP).
Many importers are also incredibly frustrated—but it’s not just because of the prices.
It’s because PPE shipments are increasingly getting held up at Chinese customs.
Customs regulations in the country are constantly evolving and it seems that no one can keep up. Will my shipment make it through? Will I ever see it? These are the questions running through importers’ minds.
Last week, Dan Harris of the China Law Blog posted an article about how trying to get PPE out of China is getting riskier by the day.
Here at Insight, we’ve been sourcing a lot of PPE lately for our customers, and we’ve seen these problems firsthand.
Let’s talk about why so much PPE is getting held up at customs and what steps you need to take to improve your chances of getting an order through.
Why PPE is Getting Held Up at China Customs
There has been a lot of talk about the quality of Chinese medical products.
With Western media outlets like the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and others shining a big bright spotlight on faulty N95 masks and flawed test kits from China, many negative opinions are circulating.
This is where the Chinese concept of “face,” or “mianzi,” comes in.
The Chinese government does not want poor quality products to affect their image, so they are making it increasingly tough to get PPE products through customs.
It might seem great that they are focused on ensuring that only legitimate products get through customs. The problem is that the wording of their customs pronouncements is vague and there is a lack of clear guidance about the rules.
This makes it so that one port can have one set of rules while another port has a different set.
In other words, the people enforcing the rules might not even be 100% clear about what they are.
This makes it difficult to get any medical products through and increases the risk that you will place an order and never receive it. This, in turn, leads to intense frustration on the part of PPE buyers and a strong need to take Advil.
So what can you do?
Some Tips to Help You Improve the Chances of Getting Your PPE
One of the keys to avoiding these kinds of customs issues is that you do not forget the fundamentals of good sourcing.
This means doing your due diligence on suppliers, working out fair payment terms, and focusing on product quality.
You need to be sure the factory has all the necessary licenses and permissions for PPE and is allowed to export it. You also need to be sure that all of your paperwork is in order.
Also, ASTM International, a standards organization, recently started providing “no-cost public access to important ASTM standards used in the production and testing of personal protective equipment.”
We strongly recommend taking advantage of this because any PPE that meets these standards will be proven reliable.
We’ve seen that there are a lot of issues with the packaging of masks, for example with companies putting the FDA logo on them.
This a big problem, because the FDA does not actually approve masks, it only allows manufacturers to register for listing in their directory.
With issues like this, you need to keep in mind that quality control is now more important than ever in China.
So you should focus on quality control to put yourself in a better position to accomplish your goals and actually get your PPE.
As such, we recommend that you conduct third-party inspections and lab tests on your purchase orders.
Stay safe and healthy and we wish you the best in all your efforts.