Do I need an Export Licence?



I am trying to set up an on-line shop where I can sell British Real Ales.

The business is for private importers (not retailers) in Japan.
I will not sell any alcohol in UK nor any other countries outside Japan.

Due to the high postage and custom regulations in Japan, each shipment will be quite small, e.g. 2 x 500ml.

I will purchase bottles of beer from my local retailers, supermarkets or directly from breweries.
As far as I understand, beer duty are already paid.

My questions are:

Do I need to apply an Export Licence?

Do I need to register as an alcohol retailer?

Looking forward to your answers.

Thank you for your help.

Maki Fukuda


Dear Maki,

Thank you for your question.

We had a similar question earlier this year about exporting food to the Middle East. There were a couple of useful responses to it.

We also have a webinar on Food and Drink Exporting : Regulation, Distribution and Support next Thursday which might help.




Hi Maki,

Assuming you will be shipping using Royal Mail or similar Parcel service as small quantities then my thoughts are that no export licence / need to register as alcohol retailer would be needed.

To clear up any doubt going forward I would call the HMRC advice line on 0845 010 9000.

You might also wish to consider that there is a good market in Asia with private buyers for premium UK whiskeys.

Kind regards,


Hello Maki,

For air freight, you’ll be limited to sending ale in glass bottles only as aluminium cans collapse inwards and usually burst open from the drop in pressure. I would also check which ales are pasteurized (not all are) as this affects the shelf life of the product – buying from a supermarket (compared to getting a more recent batch direct from the brewery) might mean 1-3 months life lost before you even post them out.


Export Action Plan