New Colombia Project to Enhance Safety, Efficiency in Agricultural and Livestock Trade and Regulation, Saving Time and Money for Businesses

Alliance initiative will optimise ICA’s risk management system and support the introduction of electronic phytosanitary certificates

  • A new Alliance initiative will optimise how Colombia’s sanitary and phytosanitary agency assesses risk, thereby reducing physical inspections and better protecting Colombia’s borders
  • Colombia will also join the International Plant and Protection Convention’s “ePhyto hub,” enabling the country’s agricultural sector to issue and exchange electronic phytosanitary certificates and engage with international trade partners more effectively
  • The Colombian Institute of Agriculture and Livestock and the Alliance have formalised the arrangement with the signing of a memorandum of understanding

In Colombia, nearly all incoming and outgoing shipments of agricultural products are manually inspected, a complex process that can lead to delays and extra costs for traders.

However, that will soon change, thanks to a new project by the Colombian government and the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation, which aims to strengthen Colombia’s risk management system for agricultural and livestock products and modernise its national system to exchange phytosanitary certificates electronically.

Together, this comprehensive project will reduce the risk of erroneous or lost paperwork, which can cause costly delays and result in spoiled goods, and boost the competitiveness of Colombian products worldwide. It also contributes to Colombia implementing its commitments under the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, which it ratified in 2020.

During a launch event on October 5 in Bogotá, which brought together key public and private stakeholders, the Colombian Institute of Agriculture and Livestock (ICA) and the Alliance formalised the arrangement with the signing of a memorandum of understanding.

The project with ICA is scheduled to take 24 months. Strengthening the ICA is expected to reduce the number of physical inspections, lower the costs associated with imports and exports for business, and ensure greater compliance with sanitary and phytosanitary requirements.

“We have been working with ICA to streamline and modernize procedures with a focus on different areas. We are aiming to automate processes and strengthen the sanitary and phytosanitary authority to combine business development and a better compliance of the sanitary regulation, making trade efficient and agile. With this new project, we prioritize the importance of strengthening risk management and electronic certification systems, which will undoubtedly result in improved competitiveness and an increase in exports of agricultural and agroindustrial goods in the country”, indicated Paola Buendía , Executive Vice President of ANDI.

Colombia’s need for new trade risk management processes

Trade risk management practices in Colombia, particularly in the agricultural and livestock sector, rely heavily on physical inspections of goods. Low detection rates of non-compliant cargo and irregularities are a natural consequence of the indiscriminate use of physical inspections, which is based on suspicion or habits instead of an objective, impartial analysis.

In 2020, only 453 shipments of agricultural goods were stopped at the border from a total of 29,683 physical inspections of imports. This project will tackle the issue by optimising ICA’s existing risk management system and ensuring that it is used consistently to reduce physical inspections while better detecting risks and streamlining the customs clearance of all agricultural goods at the border.

“Having a robust risk management system will enable ICA to conduct fewer physical inspections of goods and improve the trade of agricultural products in the country,” said Deyanira Barrero León, ICA’s General Manager. “Businesses will benefit from simplified procedures, saving time and money, and enabling Colombian products to be more competitive globally.”

Introducing ePhytos

This project will also enable ICA to exchange electronic phytosanitary certificates, or ePhytos, using the “ePhyto Hub,” an initiative led by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) Secretariat. ICA will connect to the IPPC hub using its own national system, allowing it to seamlessly issue, modify, and exchange ePhytos with participating countries – quickly, accurately, and at a low cost.

Importing countries usually require phytosanitary certificates for plant and plant products to demonstrate that they are free from pests and disease-causing infections. In Colombia, such certificates are currently issued on paper and transferred between traders and government agencies by post or courier. This manual procedure can be a time-consuming and cumbersome process prone to errors, loss, or fraud.

Now, the move to ePhytos will enable Colombia to engage with international trade partners more effectively and comes as its agricultural sector has experienced a surge of activity. Between 2015 and 2019, agricultural exports in Colombia increased by almost 32%, while livestock exports increased by 78%. In 2019, ICA issued 156,917 phytosanitary certificates for farm products and livestock exports.

The Alliance has already gained valuable experience supporting the implementation of the IPPC’s ePhyto Solution in Morocco and has other similar projects underway in countries including Ecuador, Jordan, Madagascar, and Senegal.

In Colombia, the project’s primary public sector partners are ICA, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Directorate of National Taxes and Customs. Local private sector organisations supporting the project include the National Business Association of Colombia (ANDI), the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce, and ICC Colombia.

The project team will also collect data about the representation of women-owned businesses and micro, small, and medium enterprises in Colombia’s agricultural and livestock industries, while the Presidential Council for Women’s Equity will work to raise awareness among women-owned businesses of the newly simplified trade processes.

“This project shows how trade facilitation reforms can reduce the administrative burden on both border agencies and businesses,” said Philippe Isler, Director of the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation. “By digitising processes and optimising risk management, this project will have a ripple effect across the agricultural sector and make doing business in Colombia more competitive globally.”