• Chris Edwards

What Is A Consolidated Koi Shipment?

Consolidated Koi Shipments

One of many decisions facing koi dealers is how to buy their koi. For a new dealer the choices and terminology can be slightly bewildering. For many dealers, “consolidated” is the only way they will buy their koi. And for some very justified reasons.

So what is the “consolidated” buying method?

It’s pretty much as it sounds. A group of koi dealers in effect team together and consolidate their individual buyings into one large shipment. This allows dealers to take advantage of a combined buying power and bring fish in direct from the source instead of going through a wholesale facility. This is common practice across all areas of the aquatic trade, not just koi. Tropical fish consolidated shipments are huge business.

For a dealer to independently bring in their own shipment is almost impossible for most. It’s simply not financially viable for the exporter, the shipper, the airline or the dealer themselves to make it work.

Buying koi consolidated increases the buying power many times over and it also eliminates the legal requirements of the dealer having to obtain an “import license”. Which is not a simple process, and quite rightly so.

Of course, there are a handful of of very experienced and professional dealers who are more than capable of bringing in their own shipments direct from Japan. But these are few and far between and have taken many, many years to build up to those levels. Even then, there’s many dealers who will still buy a few boxes consolidated as well as bring in their own, It’s often just too convenient not to use this system.

Without consolidated shipments however, most dealers simply wouldn't have access to the kind of fish they currently enjoy. They can just bring in 2 or 3 boxes if that’s all that’s required. Perfect for a mid season top up.

So how does it work?

Basically, you have a “consolidater”. A consolidater is somebody, although mostly an independent company, who collates orders and sources the koi for the dealers. They handle all the exporting, shipping and importing of the koi. Somebody who basically brings the whole operation together.

A consolidater with a UK import authorisation number is accountable to CEFAS and needs to be available for regular inspections. Part of these inspections is being able to produce a “breadcrumb” trail and identify where each fish came from and where it went to. Strict, stringent and clear record keeping is a vital skill for the consolidator.

A typical consolidated shipment of Japanese koi will be between 70 and 250 boxes. These boxes will most likely be divided among 15-30 different dealers. Each dealer having anywhere between 1 and 50 boxes each. Depending on the size of the fish, each box will have anywhere between 1 and 200 koi in it. All boxes are pre ordered 20-10 days prior to the shipment.

Upon arrival, the unopened boxes are distributed to the dealers fully labelled with the dealer’s name, the quantity of fish inside, the size of the fish, the varieties and the weight of the box, which is usually between 15 and 50kgs.

The first time the boxes will be opened since leaving the breeder’s farms will be back at the dealer’s facility. There are however, a handful of boxes randomly opened and inspected by CEFAS at the airport to make sure what’s in the boxes matches up with the label on the outside. These boxes are then resealed with special “Checked by CEFAS” packing tape.

This is now the point where the skill of the dealer can really set them apart, here is where they can stamp their own mark on the supply chain, their quarantine procedures!! But that’s a whole new topic for maybe a later blog.

So how does a dealer buy consolidated koi?

Most consolidaters at the very basic level will publish a list with a selection of koi from many different farms. The list shows the size, price, breeder, varieties, weight of the box and quantity of fish on the box. On occasion, the consolidater may also offer links to sample videos of the batches. It’s crude, but it’s worked successfully for the past 30 years or so.

Although there is nothing wrong with the above method of producing a list, some consolidaters however, care enough to offer a great level of care and service to the koi trade.

In 2012, Azukari Koi set a new benchmark. I went out to live in Japan and offered hand selected koi, with videos and photographs of the exact koi in the box as well as all the relevant information, including the exact shipment date. A practice that is now commonplace and has given a new level of service to the UK koi trade. Dealers are now able to see what they are buying. Of course, the basic list is still a huge part of our business that we just can’t be without, but the photographs and videos add a whole new dimension to the level of service we can offer.

We also inspect the breeders regularly and can see instantly if for any reason we need to promote a breeder harder, or to even hold back from offering their koi for a while.

We publish our shipping dates well in advance. Each and every dealer will know what shipment their koi are arriving on. For the most part, each shipment has a 2 week buying window where a dealer can add additional boxes, or choose from special offers at anytime. Once a window closes, the orders are sent to the breeders, the shipping files, health certificates and labels are produced, the fish are prepared for shipping and then shipped. This takes about 10 days in total. During those 10 days, the next buying window is open and the buying continues in a continual cycle until the end of the season.

So why would a dealer buy consolidated stocks as opposed to fully quarantined/acclimatised stocks that are already in the country and ready for sale?

- The price. Buying consolidated koi are the cheapest way for a dealer to buy.

- Biosecurity. It’s comforting to know the koi haven’t touched anybody else’s water or facility other than that of the breeder’s.

- The breeder sees who is buying his fish. Proactive breeders will select stocks with specific dealers in mind. A good relationship with a breeder is invaluable. This is where a good consolidater will be a vital asset to a dealer.

- Availability. Vast amounts of koi are available from many different farms. A dealer isn’t restricted to a handful of tanks already pre chosen by the wholesaler and already picked through by other dealers. Only one dealer has first pick, and that first pick is only from koi the wholesaler has already chosen.

Hopefully this has shed some light on just a small part of what to me is a passion, the koi trade. I love it.

If you’re a dealer and looking for consolidated stocks, either from the list, hand selected koi or by joining us in Japan yourself, please get in touch. We are here to support you.

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