Today, Monday 15th July is an important day for global agricultural and grain trade as the electronic phytosanitary certification goes worldwide.
The International Grain Trade Coalition (IGTC) has been advocating for the adoption of electronic phytosanitary certification systems (e-phytos) as a means to reduce manual paperwork in trade, making it easier for global plant protection bodies to send and receive phytosanitary certificates in the course of trade and reduce forgery of such certificates by unscrupulous traders.
Today marks an important milestone because the Generic National System (GeNS), an e-phyto system by the International Plant Protection Convention, will become open for use by all countries.
This means that countries do not have to develop their own e-phyto systems, just like Android is an open source software that is used by many mobile phones.
This makes it easier for developing countries to adopt e-phyto systems to facilitate grain trade without committing too many resources to develop the system.
Below are benefits of e-phyto with respect to facilitating trade:
- Reduced possibilities of fraudulent documentation. For instance, a couple of years ago, India had raised concerns over forged phyto certificates for pulses from Tanzania.
- Reduced data entry and validation functions by National Plant Protection Organization staff.
- Improved security in transmission of certificate documentation
- Improved planning for the arrival and clearance of plants and plant products at customs
- Reduced delays in receiving replacement phytosanitary certificates
- Maximizing investments by building on existing initiatives
- Reduced ongoing costly bilateral arrangements
- The ability to link into the World Customs Organization “One Window” initiative
- Harmonized codes and processes
- Supporting the implementation of the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement
EAGC through the IGTC supports the use of the defined harmonized message schema in the ePhyto Hub and encourages governments, particularly those of strategic importance for the grain industry, to support implementation as quickly as possible.
Kenya is already using its own e-phyto system to facilitate trade.
The Eastern Africa Grain Council further urges other Eastern and Southern African countries to adopt e-phytos for trade facilitation through the opportunity presented by the GeNS e-phyto system.
It will be crucial for private sector operators to continue well-established, efficient trading practices that currently underpin the grain supply chain. These include commercial parties having an appropriate level of control over the release of a phyto certificate before it is presented to an importer.