Tuesday, March 24, 2015

181 countries endorse e-Phyto certificates to cut costs on plant pests, diseases

The International Plant Protection Convention, under the governing body of Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM) and made up of 181 countries, has agreed to develop a global system of electronic phytosanitary certificates, known as e-Phyto, ITRealms reports.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the decision means that the complex, bureaucratic process whereby millions of paper phytosanitary certificates are created, printed, and exchanged between countries each year, will eventually be replaced by an online electronic system. 

ITRealms also reports that the current paper certificates serve to reassure importers that plant products including food have been inspected and found to be free of the kinds of pests that could devastate their local economy by harming agriculture or the environment. It is an essential effort, but costly in terms of time and resources.

Experts told ITRealms that e-Phyto has been designed to eventually replace paper certificates entirely. Envisaged at its heart is a central hub, which will receive on a voluntary basis certificates from National Plant Protection Organisations (NPPOs) in exporting countries and makes them available to the NPPOs of importing countries.

Peter Thomson, the IPPC's Bureau lead for the e-Phyto development noted that the hub will provide a simple and secure method for exchange, eliminating the need for countries to negotiate exchange protocols bilaterally with each and every trading partner.

"Security and confidentiality are crucial concerns that have been thoroughly addressed in the system design," Thomson said, stressing that a secure electronic exchange of certificates between NPPOs will eliminate problems some countries currently experience with the use of fraudulent certificates by importers or exporters.

The hub model, he said, is expected to be a lot less costly than existing paper-based methods and will significantly strengthen global harmonization and adherence to the IPPC standards for phytosanitary certification.

"There'll be one set of rules, and one way to interpret them," Thomson declared.

e-Phyto is expected to simplify and reduce the cost of global trade, increase the ability of countries to identify items that pose a high risk and reduce the potential for fraud and hence collateral damage.
A staggering $1.1 trillion worth of agricultural products are traded internationally each year, with food accounting for more than 80 per cent of the total.
+Remmy Nweke (ITRealms) 

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