Business Management | Resources

Importing Handicraft Ceramics From India To The UK

Oct 20, 2021 | Benedict Cross

This article is for Indian businesses that want to sell handmade ceramics to other businesses in the UK. Exporting your handicraft stock is an intimidating prospect, but here you will find a comprehensive breakdown of how to do it.

Freight Forwarding

Currently, India does not have a trade deal with the UK in place. However, trade between the two countries is worth around £23 billion or ₹2.3 trillion, and supports more than half a million jobs.

The website will give you a guide to exporting to the UK - this article will concentrate on specifically exporting ceramics from India. All businesses moving goods to the UK need an EORI (Economic Operators Registration and Identification) number. To get one of these yourself, you’ll need to have premises within the UK, and if you’re a small handicrafts business it’s unlikely that this is feasible. Instead, you can appoint someone who does have an EORI number to deal with customs for you.

For small businesses exporting goods, the most likely service you’ll use will be a freight forwarder. This is a business that moves goods around the world. A freight forwarder with a UK EORI number will be able to transport your goods to the UK and get them through customs for you.

You can find an Indian freight forwarder here. Given the UK’s distance from India, you will likely be using sea freight to transport your goods. Be aware that the state of India’s infrastructure can often lead to delays, and make sure the freight forwarder you use can export to the UK.


An important decision you will have to make when using sea freight is whether the goods you will be transporting will entirely fill up a shipping container. A consignment of goods that will entirely fill a container is called FCL (Full Container Load) transport. A consignment that will not fill a container is called LCL (Less than Container Load) transport, and usually shares a container with other cargo.

If possible, I would recommend aiming for FCL transport. Having all of your goods neatly in one container makes the shipment easier to handle both logistically and administratively. Logistically, the container can be unpacked faster and all your goods will arrive together. Administratively, the entire container will be under one account, making processing and clearance quicker. Best of all, these advantages mean that lower shipping rates will be charged to you for FCL compared to LCL transport, making FCL the most cost-effective transport solution.

To determine whether your ceramics exports are suitable for FCL or LCL transport, you will have to work out how large a space they will take up when packed. The two most common sizes of shipping container are 

  • The 20 foot container. These have an internal storage capacity of 33.1 cubic metres or 1,170 cubic feet. You can find out more about their dimensions here.

  • The 40 foot container. These are twice as long and can store 67.6 cubic metres or 2,386 cubic feet of goods. You can find out more about them here.

To calculate the cost of shipping using these containers, I highly recommend Rural Handmade’s shipping calculator. By inputting your India-UK origin and destination, the weight and value of your goods and the number and size of your containers, you can accurately calculate how much it will cost to transport your ceramics to the UK. By using Rural Handmade, you can also have your consignment bundled with many other small businesses and enjoy the discounted rates of the larger, collected order.

There are also other container sizes available, although bear in mind that these might not be compatible with every carrier. These include 8 foot and 10 foot containers. You can find out more about 8 foot containers here and 10 foot containers here.

If your goods require more than one container to package, but are not enough to fill two containers, you may want to use a mixture of FCL and LCL containers.


Given the fragile nature of ceramics, safe packaging will be crucial to the successful export of your goods. The best way to package fragile ceramics is with bubble wrap, packing peanuts and inner and outer cardboard boxes. Wrap the ceramics in bubble wrap, before placing them in a box filled with packing peanuts. This will be your inner box. To provide further protection against blows, you should pack the inner box within a larger outer box, filling the space between the two boxes with more packing peanuts. This method will ensure the safety of your products. You can find a comprehensive guide to packaging ceramics for shipping here.

Commodity Codes

All goods have a commodity code that categorises exactly what type of goods they are, so that they can be processed during import and export. Ceramics and their commodity codes are covered under Chapter 69 of the UK Integrated Online Tariff, and different ceramic articles are covered under different sub-headings within the chapter. For example, ceramic plates are covered under either Heading 11, ‘Tableware, kitchenware, other household articles and toilet articles, of porcelain or china’, or Heading 12, ‘Tableware, kitchenware, other household articles and toilet articles, other than of porcelain or china’. You can see therefore that it is not only the kind of object that goods are, but their construction materials, that affect their commodity codes and potentially what import tax is paid on them. The website also lists the VAT and third country duty paid on specific imported goods - as of October 2021 India does not have a free trade agreement with the UK, so third country duty will always be payable. By checking the various subheadings, you will be able to see, for example, that stoneware kitchenware is subject to a third country duty rate of 4%, but that earthenware kitchenware is subject to one of 8%. Before you import your goods, you will have to make sure they are classified with the correct commodity code so that the right tariffs can be applied.


You will need to prepare an invoice for your ceramics. This must include the price you’re selling the goods at if you are in fact selling them. If you’re not selling them, include the market value of the goods instead. If any freight or export insurance is included in the price, list this separately. Some export countries require proof of origin in their invoices, but as India does not have a free trade agreement with the UK, this won’t be relevant and a proof of origin does not need to be included. If this state of affairs ever changes however, details of whether you’ll need to pay VAT can be found here. Once you’ve completed your invoice, you’ll need to include a copy with the paperwork that will travel with the goods. If you need any licenses or certificates for your ceramics, you’ll need to include them too. Finally, ask the buyer of your ceramics if there’s any other information that needs to be provided for your goods to be successfully imported.


Your freight forwarder will make the right customs declaration at the UK border for you and get your ceramics into the UK. This process is complex, but a professional customs agent like a freight forwarder should be practiced at doing it.


Congratulations! You’ve successfully exported your ceramics to the UK. Remember to keep a copy of any invoices and other paperwork you used to complete the export process in case you need to refer to them later.

And there you are - not so hard after all. Your customs agent or freight forwarder should be able to answer any further questions you have about the export process. If you choose to use Rural Handmade to help you with your export, we can offer you a suite of services to ease your journey - from warehouse service and brand upgrading to sustainability scoring and custom packaging. Contact us today by calling +44 7456176631 or emailing us at!

I Understand

By continuing to use this site you consent to the use of cookies.

Know More.