The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development appointed Fruit South Africa (Fruit SA) in March 2018 to develop electronic certification (E-Cert) system aimed at modernising the export of agricultural products.
The development of the system was informed by increasing demand on inspection and certification of import and exports of agricultural products by the department.
The system will also allow harmonisation between different inspection centres and will assist in preventing fraud on documents, which could lead to loss of markets caused by loss of confidence by importing countries in the South African certification procedures.
The system will serve as an interface between different government institutions such as the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti), the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and other stakeholders such as assignees, to keep track of consignments that enter and leave South Africa.
Ernest Phoku, Director Inspection Services said that phase one of the system is mainly for export certification of all agricultural products, but will in the interim be used on certification of fruits.
The reason for the latter is that there is already a system in place for pre-certification of fruits called the Phytclean (track and trace system developed by Fruit SA, in collaboration with the department to manage the inspection and integrity of the information in the value chain).
The department is working in collaboration with the Netherlands Department of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (DANFQ) following bilateral cooperation entered into on November 2015 between the two countries to develop e-certification system. Subsequently, DANFQ seconded experts on the project, to mentor the department and developers on the development and operation of the system.
The introduction of E-Cert to SA’s authorities and its inclusion on the bilateral cooperation was facilitated by former attaché to Brussels, Thapsana Molepo.
When fully operational, this system will reduce fraud while improving turnaround times and traceability.
The benefit of the E-Certification system will first be felt on export of citrus and deciduous fruit entering the European Union (EU) through the Netherlands, since more than 70% of SA’s fruit to the EU goes through Rotterdam port.
The department’s officials, the developers and Netherlands’ technical experts met in Durban on 5 July 2019, to prepare for the official launch of the E-Certification system in September 2019.