The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries with funding from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (D.A.W.R), Australia held a stakeholders awareness session for the implementation of the electronic phytosanitary system (ePhyto) in Samoa last week.
Held at Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel, the event was attended by various government ministries, exporters, importers and border agencies.
According to a press release, Samoa is planning to implement ePhyto with the aim of regulating and facilitating international trade of plants and plant products that would provide substantial benefits to business processes associated with Samoa Quarantine Services (S.Q.S) and its stakeholders.
The ePhyto project is an initiative of the International Plant Protection Convention (I.P.P.C) to assist developing countries to implement Generic ePhyto National System (GeNS) for the exchange of phytosanitary certificates.
GeNS will connect to a single-point exchange mechanism called the Hub to allow countries without a National system to exchange certificates in a secure platform.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Director for Business Systems Programme, Plant Export Operations in Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Peter Neimanis said the awareness session was “about electronic certification.
“It’s the way that we exchange certificates from country to country, from governments to governments and when we send products, when Samoa sends coconut or Australia sends oranges overseas, we have to produce a certificate that says it’s free of peasants and diseases,” he said. “So it’s about making sure that the products we export to other countries don’t spread peasant diseases.
“If you send coconuts to Australia or we send oranges to China, the importing country would have rules and import conditions about how those goods should be traded or controlled before they export those goods and that goes on to a certificate.
“This is where we are engaging with industries, even though the Quarantine service does the inspection, the industries have an important role in the trade of the goods so they have a responsibility to make sure the goods are treated or free of pests before they are exported, they have a responsibility as well so this is about communicating with industries about this project, that will be sending certification information electronically between countries.
“We’ve spoken to the Quarantine service a couple of times during last year’s workshop in August, where we continue to work with them.
Now this is the first time we’re talking to industries about these changes that are going to come and we will just let them know what the system is about and when we come back, maybe early next year, the system will be ready to test and the industries will be involved more directly.
“All the people in Quarantine know about it because they do these certificates everyday.
“These certificates happened without a lot of people knowing about it.
“Most people in Australia know about health quarantine rules when you come into Australia but they don’t think about the rules of when you export.
“You got to make the rules with another country but a lot of people don’t know about it.
At the moment, we do a lot of paperwork and you know certificates get lost, there’s issues like certificates could be wrong and might have put wrong information on the certificates so by sending the message electronically, you cut down on fraud and the certificates arrive before the goods are due and they can check that the information is correct.
“So this can help speed up the import process.
One of the presenters who’s also the Senior Project Scientist for Department of Agriculture in Australia, Dr. Chin Karunaratne added on by saying: “This will help these people to regulate their business processes and it will be cost saving for the industries and for the Quarantine service because they are sending certificates electronically and they will also have access to all the sectors development goals of the certificates they had sent and that will help them regulate their business processes.”
The press release also stated that the pilot stage will determine the potential of Samoa to move on to GeNS using a paperless system, which would facilitate global electronic Phytosanitary exchange.
As Samoa is the only country in the Pacific selected for ePhyto implementation, this would be a major milestone for trade facilitation in the region.