In recent years, with European Union support, Ukraine has digitalised many aspects of its phytosanitary certification process. Still, several key modules remain paper-based, and its management system, PHIS, cannot handle international electronic exchange.
To obtain a phytosanitary certificate, exporters must manually submit paper application forms to the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection (SSUFSCP), which has a network of offices across the country. This agency handles around 220,000 such requests every year and the cost of obtaining a certificate varies depending on the crop, type of transport and cargo volume. This constitutes a significant administrative burden for exporters.
Making an application also entails a two-stage, paper-based process under which companies must first initiate laboratory analysis confirming that their goods are free of pests and diseases and then they must present the results to an inspector. This requires separate trips to the laboratory and to a regional SSUFSCP office, increasing costs and incurring delays.
Furthermore, companies must use a government account to pay for the entire process and forward physical proof of payment. Without this, no inspection will take place and a certificate cannot be issued.
Currently, PHIS cannot process electronic phytosanitary certificates (ePhytos) from other countries.
The current conflict compounds the need to digitalise the system and integrate it into the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) ePhyto Hub, enabling electronic phytosanitary certificate exchange. Conventional trade routes have been disrupted leading to long queues and huge administrative burdens at Ukraine’s land and sea borders. Although a July 2022 agreement – the Black Sea Grain Initiative – meant shipments could resume from three key ports, this arrangement is fragile, and 2022 exports remained below pre-war levels.
Beyond the obvious economic consequences for Ukraine and its agricultural sector, which represents 10.6% of total GDP and employs 14% of the population, the dramatic reduction in exports and allied price hikes also pose a threat to global food security.
Ukraine is among the world’s top agricultural producers and a major international trader in commodities requiring phytosanitary certificates. It is one of the leading exporters of oil seeds and grains and many countries, especially developing and least developed economies, rely upon it for grain imports.
What We Are Doing
PHIS is now used by all phytosanitary staff in Ukraine, including inspectors, making it an excellent platform for integrating into the IPPC ePhyto Hub.
The Alliance is supporting SSUFSCP and the private sector in introducing the IPPC ePhyto Solution, easing access to most of the country’s main trading partners systems, including TRACES, the European Union’s online platform for sanitary and phytosanitary certification.
Enabling ePhyto exchange with a growing number of countries through a central hub, quickly, accurately and at low cost mitigates the risk of damage, loss or error while also reducing the administrative burden on both border agencies and business.
In addition to IT inputs to adapt the PHIS to the requirements of the hub, including the capacity to receive and manage import certificates, change management will involve extensive training for agency staff and the private sector on using the new system.
The Alliance will launch an awareness campaign targeted at business to ensure a smooth transition from the current paper-based system to a digital environment and to encourage widespread adoption.
To enhance sustainability, the project will develop standardised training kits and a ‘train-the-trainer’ approach to strengthen delivery maintenance into the future. As with every Alliance initiative, gender sensitisation techniques will be deployed to help ensure equal access to training, participation in Public Private Dialogues, workshops, and other activities. There will also be special emphasis on encouraging inputs from micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
Introducing the IPPC ePhyto Solution will have measurable short and long-term benefits for Ukraine and global food security.
Connecting PHIS to the hub will improve the security, efficiency, transparency, and predictability of the country’s cross-border agricultural trade in several ways, including:
- reducing the difficulties associated with the exchange of paper certificates
- improving scheduling and planning for the arrival and clearance of plants and plant products
- reducing delays in receiving replacement phytosanitary certificates
- enabling the more efficient storage, management, and access to electronic information
- decreasing the time to process phytosanitary certificate applications
- streamlining border procedures.
In the short term, adoption of the IPPC ePhyto Solution can help ease blockages resulting from inefficient trade administration procedures. The planned involvement of neighbouring countries will further strengthen supply chains.
In the current conflict situation, digitalising the application process will mitigate or even eliminate potentially dangerous journeys undertaken by employees to obtain paper certificates, enhancing personal safety.
In the long term, exporters and importers will benefit from the time and cost reductions associated with the digitalisation of the phytosanitary certification process.