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Colombia - Selling and buying

Contents extracted from the comprehensive atlas of international trade by Export Entreprises

Reaching the consumers

Marketing opportunities

Consumer behavior: A minority of Colombian population (20%) has a high purchasing power, the price is the most important consideration for the most of Colombian 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.
Consumer profile: Colombian household consumption mainly concerns primary needs and education.
Colombians is strongly influenced by mode, brands and promotion, but there is also a strong influence of traditions on consumption habits.
Main advertising agencies:

Distribution network

Evolution of the sector: The Colombian government, has introduced an attractive policy for foreign investors especially in the distribution sector. This economic opening has favored the enthusiasm of Colombians for imported products even if this trend mainly concerns the social class possessing high purchasing power.
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.
Types of outlet: The most important commercial zones are located in large cities: Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Cartagena and Pereira.
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

Economic Cooperation: Colombia has signed many international trade agreements:

- 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.

Non tariff barriers: All imported goods have to be registered with the Ministry of Foreign Trade (Mincomex) on a form called "Registro de Importacion", worth 21 500 pesos (about 11 USD). Most   products are automatically authorized to be imported if this form is presented (imports under the "Registro" procedure). There nevertheless a certain number of goods (especially agricultural products) that are subject to license (imports under the " Licencia " procedure).
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.
Average Customs Duty (excluding agricultural products): During the past few years, Colombia reduced import duties. Two decrees, 4114 and 4115, listed the reductions. The average nominal import duty was reduced from 12.2% to 8.25%. Consumer goods, capital goods, and raw materials produced outside of Colombia were the main reduction targets.
Customs classification: Colombia applies the Harmonized Customs System. Customs duties are calculated Ad valorem on the CIF value. The customs duties system (4 rates) was fixed within the Andean PACT and is applicable to Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. Bolivia is authorised to use 5% and 10% rates, and at the moment Peru is benefiting from an exemption.
Import procedures: Besides the Customs declaration (SAD) 2 traditionally required for all goods dispatched, consignments sent to Colombia must be accompanied by the following documents:
- 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

Organizing goods transport to and from: Goods transport inside the country is mostly by road. For further information consult the Ministry of 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.

Air transport organizations:

Domestic business directories

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