This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Saudi Arabia adheres to standards developed both domestically by the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO) and by the GCC Standardization Organization (GSO), the standards organization for the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. While the GSO continues to push for standards harmonization across the Gulf, SASO maintains significant authority in developing, elaborating on, and enforcing standards for Saudi Arabia. SASO is the only Saudi organization responsible for setting national standards for commodities and products, measurements, testing methods, metrological symbols and terminology, commodity definitions, safety measures, and environmental testing, as well as other requirements approved by the organization’s Board of Directors.
The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has authority over imported telecommunications and IT products and services. Recently, the CITC has taken a more proactive role and has published a number of technical specifications relating to various products and services within its jurisdiction.
The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) is responsible for regulating, overseeing, and controlling food, drug, medical devices, as well as setting mandatory standard specifications thereof, whether they are imported or locally manufactured. The control and/or testing activities can be conducted at any of the SFDA’s approved laboratories. The SFDA is also in charge of consumers’ awareness on all matters related to food, drug and medical devices and associated products and supplies.
Testing, Inspection and Certification
In January 2018 SASO rolled out Saleem Saber, an electronic certification and conformity assessment system, replacing CoC, that became mandatory for all imported goods entering Saudi Arabia as of July 2018. Saber (https://saber.sa) is an electronic service provider for obtaining Certificates of Conformity for products destined to the Saudi Arabian market under applicable Saudi standards and specifications rules. Referred to simply as Saber, the system is an online verification tool that connects importers, SASO-approved certification bodies, and Saudi customs and related trade authorities in one online system. Saudi Arabia’s purpose for initiating this program is to accelerate the clearance of upcoming shipments, reduce counterfeit consumer products, more easily track products, and raise the number of SASO-standard-conforming products in the Saudi market.
Saber covers both regulated and unregulated products. To submit a regulated product for importation, the importer will have to initiate the certification request by: registering their product into the Saber system by entering the product details; then, selecting the product’s classification; have a SASO-approved certification body assigned to the product for conformity assessment; and finally, await an approval certificate. If the product receives its approval certificate, the importer is then issued a shipment certificate, which must be sent to Saudi customs before the product can enter the market. The entire process is done online through the Saber system. For unregulated products, the importer can simply self-declare the product or products meets a voluntary standard and the good can be imported into the Saudi market. To self-declare a product, the importer must enter the product details into Saber, attach technical files and documents, and then be issued a Requester Declaration (S-DoC). The importer is then allowed to receive a shipment certificate, their product is sent to customs and then may enter the market.
SASO is responsible for establishing labeling and other marketing guidelines for goods in the Saudi market. The Ministry of Commerce implements SASO guidelines through its inspection and test laboratories at ports of entry into Saudi Arabia. Companies must pay special attention to labeling requirements, particularly for food products, personal care products, health care products, and pharmaceuticals. SASO has specific requirements for identifying marks and labels for various imported items.
All food products, whether imported for commercial purposes, display, or for sampling, must be fit for human consumption and should meet established shelf-life requirements. The product(s) must have a label or sticker showing statutory information such as product name, country of origin, ingredients, producer’s name and address, production and expiry/use by dates, instructions for use, in the Arabic and English languages (samples imported must be labeled at least in English). It is vital that U.S. exporters adhere to SASO quality standards and labeling regulations to avoid rejection of products at a Saudi port of entry.
Quality control laboratories at ports of entry may reject products that are in violation of existing standards and laws. Products that do not meet established SASO standards are either re-exported to the country of origin or destroyed at the importer’s expense. Companies can request a copy of the labeling requirements by contacting SASO directly.
Since 2005, Saudi Arabia has imposed shelf-life standards (manufacturer-determined use-by dates) for most foodstuffs with the exception of selected perishable foods (fresh or chilled meat and poultry; fresh milk and fresh milk-based products; margarine; fresh fruit juice; table eggs; and baby foods) that must meet SASO’s established mandatory expiration periods. The revised standard (SASO 457/2005) no longer bans imports of food products with less than half of shelf life remaining. The method for writing production and expiry dates is to put the day of the month first, followed by month and year. Use of the system commonly followed in the United States, where the month is shown first, is not acceptable in Saudi Arabia. U.S. manufacturers are urged to discuss labeling requirements with their designated representative or distributor before shipping products to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is introducing energy efficiency labeling requirements for household appliances. In addition, energy efficiency standards and labeling requirements are being developed through the Saudi Energy Efficiency Center (SEEC) in cooperation with SASO. The SEEC is a national program and public-private partnership, to curb energy consumption in the three sectors that are responsible for 90 percent of Saudi energy consumption: construction, land transportation, and industry sectors.
For construction, the SEEC is identifying best practices for energy efficiency in building and developing a new standard for a system to monitor air conditioning and insulation materials imported to or manufactured in Saudi Arabia.
For land transportation, energy efficiency standards will require new cars to be more fuel-efficient, making vehicle suppliers provide additional labeling information on their products hitting the market. In the industry sector, the intent is to increase energy efficiency in the steel, cement, and chemicals industries in the first phase. The SEEC website and further information can be found at https://www.seec.gov.sa/en.
In general, U.S. agricultural and food exports to Saudi Arabia enjoy market access with a few exceptions. However, there are stringent requirements for poultry and meat exports. The import ban imposed by the SFDA on U.S. beef and beef products in May 2012, following the discovery of an atypical BSE case in California, has been lifted through an agreement between the SFDA and USDA/USTR to open the Saudi market for U.S. beef exports. Practical obstacles remain before U.S. beef and beef products can enter the Saudi market, however, including the establishment of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) program for Export Verification (EV) for animals targeting Saudi Arabia’s market. The EV program certifies that the slaughtered cattle for export to Saudi Arabia have not been fed with animal protein, with the exception of fishmeal and milk replacers, at any stage of the cattle’s life.
Use ePing to review proposed technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures
The ePing SPS&TBT platform (https://epingalert.org/), or “ePing”, provides access to notifications made by WTO Members under the Agreements on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), distributed by the WTO from January 16, 1995 to present. ePing is available to all stakeholders free of charge and does not require registration unless the user wishes to receive customized e-mail alerts. Use it to browse notifications on past as well as new draft and updated product regulations, food safety and animal and plant health standards and regulations, find information on trade concerns discussed in the WTO SPS and TBT Committees, locate information on SPS/TBT Enquiry Points and notification authorities, and to follow and review current and past notifications concerning regulatory actions on products, packaging, labeling, food safety and animal and plant health measures in markets of interest.
Notify U.S., operated and maintained by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) since 2003 to distribute and provide access to notifications (and associated draft texts) made under the WTO TBT Agreement for US stakeholders, has reached its end of life. Per obligation under the TBT Agreement, each WTO Member operates a national TBT (and an SPS) Enquiry Point. National TBT Enquiry Points are authorized to accept comments and official communications from other national TBT Enquiry Points, which are NOT part of the WTO or the WTO Secretariat. All comment submissions from U.S. stakeholders, including businesses, trade associations, U.S domiciled standards development organizations and conformity assessment bodies, consumers, or U.S. government agencies on notifications to the WTO TBT Committee should be sent directly to the USA WTO TBT Inquiry Point. Refer to the comment guidance at https://tsapps.nist.gov/notifyus/data/guidance/guidance.cfm for further information.