Traders exporting plants or plant products from Senegal have taken a significant step closer to saving time and money, following the successful first test of the country’s new system for exchanging electronic phytosanitary certificates, also called ePhytos.
For the past nine months, the Government of Senegal and the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation have been working on an initiative to automate and digitise the certification process associated with exporting plant products.
This effort reached a critical milestone on 7 December, when the first ePhyto for cherry tomatoes left the Port of Dakar, bound for France. Eight more ePhytos were exchanged on the same day; six to the Netherlands and two more to France, for cherry tomatoes and melons.
This marked the first step in Senegal’s bid to use automated systems to electronically issue, control, and exchange phytosanitary certificates, which reduce the risk of erroneous or lost documents that can result in damaged or spoiled produce.
The use of ePhytos – an initiative of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) Secretariat – could trim the three-day window typically necessary for obtaining a paper phytosanitary certificate by as much as 50%, according to interviews with exporters and Senegal’s Department for Plant Protection (DPV), which is the project’s primary partner and is responsible for implementing the project.
DPV is using the IPPC GeNS, a web-based system that enables countries without a national system to produce, receive, and exchange ePhytos with trading partners through the IPPC Global ePhyto Hub.
Looking ahead, DPV and the Alliance will continue testing and finalising the electronic document exchange and rolling out the solution across Senegal, including training DPV inspectors and private sector exporters.
Once the initiative is up and running next year, the use of ePhytos will have an outsized impact in Senegal, where 13 of the top 20 destinations for agricultural exports are registered on the ePhyto Hub, accounting for 43% of the country’s exports.
The country’s agri-food sector is primarily dominated by micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) that are active in exporting. This project will benefit them by simplifying export procedures and reducing their expenses. It will also contribute to Senegal implementing its commitments under the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.
“The use of ePhytos will lighten the workload of the DPV’s phytosanitary inspectors, who spend a lot of time in particular working to authenticate paper phytosanitary certificates,” said Abdoulaye Ndiaye, Head of the Division of Phytosanitary Legislation and Plant Quarantine at Senegal’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Equipment.
“The successful test of the GeNS ePhyto system is a credit to the hard work of everyone involved, including DPV, IPPC, and the Senegalese government,” said Philippe Isler, the Alliance’s Director. “Senegal’s agricultural sector, particularly MSMEs, will soon benefit from increased productivity and reduced expenses, enabling them to engage with international trade partners more efficiently.”