Digitalisation initiative to enhance agri-food sector potential
Successful initial exchanges of electronic phytosanitary certificates, or ePhytos, between Madagascar and its main trading partners in May herald a new era for the country’s key agri-food sector.
Just over a year after Madagascar began work on applying the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) ePhyto Solution, five Malagasy traders successfully exchanged 26 ePhytos with some of the country’s main markets, including France, the United States of America, and the Netherlands.
The Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation (the Alliance), the IPPC, and the United Nations International Computing Centre (UNICC – the IPPC’s IT partner) have been supporting the Plant Protection Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries, the National Trade Facilitation Committee, and local and international agri-food companies, in implementing the IPPC ePhyto Solution.
Following the completion of the pilot phase in late June, the new system will be rolled out over the coming months.
By linking with the IPPC hub, traders will be able to exchange ePhytos with dozens of participating countries – quickly, accurately and at low cost. This will replace the current paper-based certification system confirming that agricultural exports and imports are free of pests and disease.
These paper certificates can take days to obtain and are prone to errors, loss, and counterfeiting. Also, if the port of entry requires any modification or refuses to approve the shipment based on the paperwork provided, the original physical documents must be returned to Madagascar for amendments.
This laborious process can result in spoilage and additional storage charges. Such risks discourage trade, particularly for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) that form the backbone of the agri-food economy.
The anticipated time and cost savings will have huge impact in a country where agriculture accounts for more than 25% of GDP, around 70% of export earnings and employs around 80% of the population.
Madagascar is the latest country to implement the IPPC ePhyto Solution, joining more than 60 other countries and dozens more in various implementation stages. More than two million ePhytos have been exchanged through the IPPC hub since it launched in December 2017. That number has accelerated in recent years, as the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis have emphasised the benefits – and need – for digitalising border processes.
The Alliance gained valuable experience supporting the implementation of this digitalised approach in Morocco and is working with IPPC on other ePhyto projects in Cameroon, Colombia, Ecuador, Fiji, Jordan, Madagascar, Senegal, and Thailand.
This project contributes to Madagascar implementing its commitments under the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, which requires countries to expedite the movement, release, and clearance of goods.
“This ePhyto project is revolutionary – thanks to it, sanitary and phytosanitary inspectors are seeing a seismic change in how they do their jobs,” said Saholy Nomenjanahary Ramiliarijaona, Head of Plant Protection. “The new system not only simplifies procedures, it also reduces the fraud that creates problems for both inspectors and traders, not to mention the related losses. The ePhyto Solution will certainly have positive impacts on the exports and imports of plants and plant products, which account for over 43% of Madagascar’s exports.”
“Madagascar’s implementation of the IPPC ePhyto Solution GeNS French language version is an excellent example of the great working relationship between the IPPC Secretariat, the Alliance, and the UN International Computing Centre,” said Craig Fedchock, IPPC Senior Adviser. “It also shows countries or organisations contemplating the move to ePhyto that with the proper support it can be done relatively easily. Finally, and most importantly, it is going to be a big benefit for Madagascar’s producers and consumers.”
“Digitalisation is key to unlocking the enormous potential of trade for both governments and businesses worldwide,” said Philippe Isler, the Alliance’s Director. “By working together in public private partnership to adopt the ePhyto Solution, Madagascar is demonstrating its ambition to increase the competitiveness of its crucial agri-food sector.”