Thailand successfully establishes inter-ministry cooperation on ePhyto certificates

Story and Photos: ePhyto Thailand Project, Agriculture and Food Cluster/GIZ

  • Department of Agriculture, National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards, and Thai Customs Department gear up to promote trade facilitation and close ranks in dealing with the export and import of plants and plant products
  • The use of electronic phytosanitary certificates reflects the commitment and efforts by the Thai government to facilitate, and simplify process involved in export from paper-based process
  • Over 392,532 phytosanitary certificates have been issued annually in average during year 2020-2023 to export plants and plants products to ASEAN and other international markets. Full application of ePhyto can potentially reduce cost of transport and operator costs by around 166 million baht or 4.89 million US dollars per year.

Thailand announced the successful implementation of an ePhyto system for plants and plant products, enabling Thai exporters to apply for digital certificates online while saving time, costs compared to the paper-based system. The ePhyto system also enables document traceability and will be upgraded to allow digital exchanges with trading countries. The new system will be paperless, eliminating the need for traders to travel to DOA offices to request and collect documents. It will also lead to major reduction in use of resources and carbon emissions.

The announcement was made during the ePhyto Thailand Project Completion Event held at Grand Hall 2, Rama Gardens Hotel on 30 March 2023. The Food and Agriculture Counsellor from the German Embassy together with representatives from Thailand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Ministry of Finance, and other relevant government departments and private sector joined the event.

From left to right: Pouchamarn Wongsanga, Project Director, ePhyto Thailand Project, Kitjaluck Srinuchsart, Deputy Director-General, Thai Customs Department; Dr Phatchayaphon Meunchang, Deputy Director-General, Department of Agriculture; Pisan Pongsapich, Secretary-General of the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards; Dr Bernd Christiansen, Counsellor for Food and Agriculture, Embassy of Germany, Bangkok; and Dr Wichai Deecharoenkul, Executive Vice President (Digital Group) of National Telecom Public Company Limited

Electronic phytosanitary certificates, ePhyto in short, are a digital version of paper phytosanitary certificates that certify that plants and plant products do not carry pests and diseases that could be harmful to plant health and public health or threaten economies and the environment of the importing country.

Thailand, officially launched the ePhyto system operation in May 2022 which is an important milestone for the Department of Agriculture (DOA), as well as the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards (ACFS), Thai Customs Department (TCD), and National Telecom Public Company Limited (NT) as the collaborative agencies. To certify that plants and plant products are fit for export, Thai exporters can now apply for phytosanitary certificate via the electronic system. The certificate validates that the exported plants and plant products are free from plant pests and diseases and in line with the import requirement of destination countries.

Bernd Christiansen, Counsellor for Food and Agriculture, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany said,  since September 2021, the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation through Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has been implementing the ePhyto Thailand Project by working with the related Thai authorities including Department of Agriculture (DOA), National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards (ACFS), and Thai Customs Department (TCD) to improve the paper-based certificate system into the digital format to enable certificate exchange with trading countries via the National Single Window (NSW) of Thailand.  The project supported Thailand to connect Thailand’s ePhyto system with the ePhyto Hub for exchanging ePhytos electronically with trading countries already connected to the ePhyto Hub, administrated by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC).

Pouchamarn Wongsanga, Project Director, ePhyto Thailand Project, said GIZ supported improvement of the existing DOA’s ePhyto platform to enable the connection of the Thai system to the ePhyto Hub, paving the way to exchange electronic phytosanitary certificate with trading countries connected to the ePhyto Hub. This development also promoted international trade and upgraded governmental working process to respond to needs and changes in global trade arenas.

“As the world is changing, the electronic-based system will make transborder trade faster and cheaper, safer and more traceable by eliminating flaws often associated with producing and exchanging paper certificates. The exchange of ePhyto certificates will also reduce risk of falsified documents, increase transparency and predictability in agrifood trade, and speed up customs clearance,” she said.

Phatchayaphon Meunchang, Deputy Director-General, Department of Agriculture, as one of the agencies leading the ePhyto system implementation, said DOA issued a total of 409,279 phytosanitary certificates in 2021 for exporting volumes of 784,259 million baht to ASEAN and global markets.   

“The digital transformation has facilitated Thai exporters to exchange important data electronically, which in turn will reduce the use of paper and allow us to efficiently trace information from the destination country back to our plants and plant products producers,” he said.

With reference to the baseline study under the project, with full application of ePhyto solution, where electronically exchanging could be made with trading countries, it was estimated that around 166 million baht or 4.89 million US dollars could be reduced from none of transport needed and less operation cost. It was based on the average certificate numbers issued during year 2020-2022.

Dr Phatchayaphon emphasised the ePhyto system complies with the current Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) economic model introduced by the Thai Government as a strategy for the national development by applying science, technology and innovation in agriculture and food sector. The aim is to achieve food security, sustainability and inclusiveness of Thailand’s economy, society, and the environment.

Pisan Pongsapich Secretary-General of the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards (ACFS), saidThailand, through the IPCC Hub, has already conducted test exchanges of ePhytos with pilot countries including Australia, New Zealand, the US, South Korea, Argentina, Chile, France, and Morocco. While a live exchange has been conducted with Indonesia as the first ASEAN counterpart, ACFS is also in the process of preparing one with the hub countries mentioned above and the Philippines. Data and process mapping cover both incoming and outgoing ePhyto certificate exchanges, as well as system alignment with other modes of exchange that Thailand is currently implementing via the IPPC Hub and bilateral arrangements.

“We work to collect and manage the database of ePhyto certificates for tracking records and further exchange with future trade counterparts. The ePhyto system significantly enhances the synergy between government agencies and private sectors. This innovative digital platform enables all stakeholders to constructively share views and work together to further develop the ePhyto system to meet our traders’ need,” he said.

Kitjaluck Srinuchsart, Deputy Director-General, Thai Customs Department, as the NSW lead agency, said a series of trainings on trade and logistic facilitation was conducted for customs staff, related agencies and private sector applying for the ePhyto certificates to ensure a rapid cargo clearance process, which reduces time and costs for businesses and therefore enhancing trade efficiency and competitiveness. China has become the latest country stating intention to initiate the ePhyto certificate exchange with Thailand. The Thai Customs Department is currently conducting bilateral talks with China on this matter.

“We express full support on expanding cooperation to ensure the country’s successful electronic exchange of phytosanitary certificates with ASEAN and trade partners and enhance our trade competitiveness via National Single Window policies.”

Wichai Deecharoenkul, Ph.D., Executive Vice President, Digital Group of National Telecom Public Company Limited, as the NSW operator, said ePhyto has established connectivity and information exchange between governmental agencies and business sector via ASEAN Single Window (ASW). NT Telecom has actively tested and developed the system to ensure a seamless e-business solutions for every ePhyto certificate exchange via all protocols.

“We are proud that our well-established telecommunication infrastructure can connect our business operators and traders to exchange ePhyto certificates with convenience. We are ready to support our alliance to continue promoting trade facilitation for boosting the export and import of plants and plant products in the region and beyond. ■

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