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Electronic certification: Pilot programme to test the paperless system

Flower growers could rid themselves of reams of paperwork if governing bodies successfully implement online inspection and export documents.

A pilot programme will test the paperless system among select rose growers ex-porting to the Netherlands.

If the programme succeeds, growers could use a system that fast-tracks certification, traces documents and serves as an online file cabinet of past consignments.

Such a data system would allow government officials to easily see whose consignments meet standards. Collecting such data over time would reveal trends, meaning that bodies like the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) could begin to assign “green,” “yellow,” or “red” ratings to growers. These ratings would be based on data and would reveal the extent to which growers have complied with standards.

Once a rating like this has been established, KEPHIS could tailor its inspections to individual farms based on their rating. For instance, a grower whose consignments consistently have problems would be subjected to a more thorough inspection than a grower who has largely adhered to the rules.

In another shift, KEPHIS officials have said that they want to change where inspections happen.

“KEPHIS will continue the same service but with more focus shifting away from the airport,” said Washington Otieno, from KEPHIS.

He said that farm-based inspections would help the industry since prob-lems could be fixed before the products arrive at the airport. The approach, though, will be limited to farms at which this approach is feasible, he said.

One grower had lamented that she would have to wait for an inspector at her isolated farm while her export-ready flowers wilted. Dr Otieno, however, said that airport inspections will only be phased out for those growers whose farms are easily accessible.

KEPHIS has yet to decide the criteria for an on-site inspection, but the results could be hosted on secure, online databases that would reduce paperwork for both growers and government.

For growers, the online program that handles export certifications is relatively simple. The program would require little more than an Internet connection and some basic computer knowledge.

It’s also cheap. KEPHIS officials have said that growers should not incur any costs associated with the online system since registration will be free. In fact, costs for the government might even drop since they no longer would have to invest time and mate¬rials for administrative paperwork.

KEPHIS plans to staff some IT experts who can help growers understand and use the pilot system.

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