Export certification goes high tech

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The time taken to approve horticultural exports will be greatly reduced, thanks to an online certification system launched by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) in April.

The first of its kind in the region, the new system is projected to reduce the certification process from 30 minutes to five minutes. It cost Ksh62 million ($775,000) to put up the system with help from the government of Netherlands and industry players.

Stakeholders in the industry are upbeat that the new system will boost horticultural earnings. Their produce have been fetching low prices partly due to the fact that it took a long time to get clearance.

The Kenya Flower Council earned Ksh36 billion ($450 million) for the year 2010 and with this new system this earning is expected to go up.
Besides cutting down on the time taken to receive certification, the online system will greatly reduce graft because human contact will be minimised.

“It reduces direct contact with officials and the certificates cannot be duplicated,” said Dr Romano Kiome, PS in the Ministry of Agriculture when he officially launched the system.

KEPHIS issues 146,000 paper certificates annually, according to Dr James Onsando the managing director.

“At an average of 400 certificates daily, one would need eight officers working full time for 12 hours each day,” said Dr Onsando.

The new system will apply to flowers exported to The Netherlands, but it will be introduced to cover other horticultural produce and other importing countries.

“It will save time and resources used in getting certification physically,” said

Juliana Rono, an exports manager at Karen roses, which is one of the firms that have been used to test the viability of the electronic certification since February.
According to Rono it would take two hours to get an inspector attend to one’s produce. She said that the process of calling, then waiting for inspection preparation for the certificate, took a long time.

The cost of a phytosanitary certificate however remains Ksh200 ($2.5) whenever you export the produce, although the gazette cost is Ksh500 ($6.25).
Although the certificate fees does not reduce, officials said the electronic certification period would now enhance the products’ competitiveness in the international market, as flowers won’t take long between harvesting and certification. The process is also anticipated to reduce on the 72 hours flowers take between being plucked from the fields in Kenya and getting to European shops.

“Reduced time will add value to our flowers as they reach the point of destination in a more stable state, it’s more like from the farm straight to the market, ” explained Dr Onsando during the launch in Nairobi.