24 June 2021, Budapest, Hungary  – Plant trade has come a long way in recent decades, but it still poses certain challenges and risks. Countries in Europe and Central Asia learned about a cutting-edge tool today, the ePhyto Solution – an electronic system for phytosanitary certification that makes trade between countries safer, faster, and cheaper. The ePhyto system is voluntary and all countries can join.

The regional webinar featured success stories from the region and elsewhere on joining the ePhyto system, which helps to generate and send electronic equivalents of paper phytosanitary certificates. The webinar provided detailed information about the ePhyto system, and on the technical support being offered to countries wishing to join it.

The event was organized jointly by FAO, the secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), the ePhyto Industry Advisory Group, and the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation.

“Through phytosanitary certificates, exporting countries can certify that plants and plant products for export are free from pests that are regulated in the importing country, and comply with phytosanitary requirements of the importing country,” said Piotr Wlodarczyk, FAO agricultural officer. “Electronic phytosanitary certificates are much more difficult to be lost, damaged, or falsified than the paper ones.”

Many countries depend on trading plants and plant products to sustain their economies. However, the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic – and stuttering air transport that resulted from that – has shown an unexpected advantage of electronic certificates, which can be delivered to a destination even when contacts between people are not possible. This has led to an increased awareness of the IPPC ePhyto solution as a safe, efficient, and easy-to-use electronic alternative to the paper document.

“The ePhyto can make a contribution to the global food-trading system that has been and continues to be affected by the current pandemic,” Wlodarczyk added.

As an example, presented at the workshop, the European Union has been using the TRACES system since 2020. This is able to receive phytosanitary certificates transmitted by non-European Union countries through the IPPC ePhyto system. Uzbekistan has been exchanging ePhyto certificates with trading partners since late 2020, and thus shared its experience with countries represented.

Experts from FAO and the International Plant Protection Convention have been actively promoting improved compliance with plant-health standards and norms to prevent the spread of plant pests and diseases, without creating unnecessary barriers to trade. This has been an important focus of the International Year of Plant Health that concludes at the end of this month.

The IPPC Secretariat is hosted at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy.