KENYA – Thanks to a platform created in conjunction with the Netherlands Food and Consumer Safety Authority (NVWA) that has automated phytosanitary certification, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) anticipates an increase in the volume of horticultural exports from Kenya.

Prof. Theophilus Mutui, the Managing Director of KEPHIS, claimed that the ePhyto platform will assist in reducing instances of missing documentation, inaccurate information, incomplete documentation, and forgeries that have plagued Kenya’s export process and resulted in losses for producers and income for the government.

“Previously we have had challenges where there is fraud. People have defaced the phytosanitary certificates which has led to our products being intercepted at the destination market. This is the reason why we came up with this innovation to be able to address that challenge,” said Prof. Mutui.

According to KEPHIS, horticulture exports are typically seized in at least 54 consignments each year because of problems with documentation.

The ePhyto platform is anticipated to decrease the cost experienced by exporters with physical documentation as well as the time it takes for the document to be transmitted from Kenya to the Netherlands and other markets.

KEPHIS backs the system to also improve phytosanitary certification compliance by at least 99%.

“We have seen over the years that electronic certification is almost the only way to go because if you have ambitions of becoming an even more important exporter of agriculture products in the world, then you need an instrument that will facilitate that ambition and I think going paperless makes this ambition to be realized,” said Patricia de Vries, Chief Phytosanitary Officer.

Last year horticulture exports rose to 682,279.4 tonnes from 592,068.2 tonnes recorded in 2020.

Exports to the Netherlands contributed Ksh 61.7 billion (approx US$497.7 million) of the total export value of Ksh 191.5 billion (approx. US$1.5 billion) recorded last year, an increase from Ksh 48.3 billion (US$389.6 million) recorded in 2020.

The MD noted that KEPHIS has benefited from the cooperation with the Netherlands through staff training on specific disciplines, knowledge transfer, and skill development, a value which has set Kenya as a leader representing Africa in the global ePhyto steering group.

While we celebrate this milestone, said Prof. Mutui, we also recognize that innovation is a dynamic process. 

He revealed that they will keep looking into new prospects for innovation in order to provide effective and affordable service to all stakeholders.

“There are other milestones to be achieved, notably ePermits for import of plants and plant products, and for this, we will continue to work with governments across the world to strengthen digitization of phytosanitary certification and other processes,” Prof. Mutui said.

Chief Phytosanitary Officer Patricia de Vries-van Loon of the Netherlands’ Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality stated that her country is eager to promote the Ephyto concept beyond Kenya as the starting point.

According to her, by going paperless, the electronic certification system will improve the efficiency of imports and exports by saving time and valuable resources, enabling more efficient exchange of fresh produce between the two countries.

“We from the Netherlands see the adoption of the ePhyto as a win-win for both our countries. We are proud that Kenya is the first country in Africa to successfully implement the ePhyto,” she said.

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