The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service reports that over the next nine to twelve months the International Plant Protection Convention will complete a proof-of-concept pilot project to test the ePhyto Hub, a global digital exchange for electronic phytosanitary certificates that aims to replace the current paper-based system. After the pilot participants will analyze what worked, what didn’t work, and what issues need to be resolved prior to implementing the system globally, which will be a multi-year effort.
More than $1 trillion worth of agricultural products are traded internationally each year. To keep that trade safe, APHIS states, countries must inspect and certify their exports of plants and plant products to ensure they meet importing countries' plant health requirements. If the exporting country fails to issue an official plant health (phytosanitary) certificate stating that the product meets those requirements, the importing country will reject the shipment. Historically these certificates have been issued on paper, “which is easy to lose and vulnerable to fraud.”
“The ePhyto Hub will transform international agricultural trade,” said Christian Dellis, export services director for USDA’s Plant Protection and Quarantine program. “Each country’s computerized trade system will share a common technical vocabulary and a set of established trade rules. That will let them all interconnect seamlessly through the global ePhyto Hub, where they can exchange fraud-resistant electronic phytosanitary certificates quickly, accurately, and at very low cost. That means lower costs to exporters and fewer shipments detained at foreign ports of entry.”
Countries participating in the pilot test include Australia, Chile, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, Guatemala, Kenya, South Korea, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Samoa, Sri Lanka, and the U.S. Some will be using their existing systems while others will use a generic national system that has been developed as part of the project.