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Electronic exchange phytosanitary certificates


The exchange of phytosanitary certificates is transitioning from paper to electronic. Importing and exporting countries are preparing for this change. Adjustments have been made in e-CertNL, and various preparations have been undertaken. The Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority will provide you with more information on this.

Electronic Exchange

The NVWA and the UK (United Kingdom) conducted tests last year and analyzed them to facilitate the exchange of electronic phytosanitary certificates between the countries. This resulted in the successful transmission of the first electronic export certificates for flower bulbs in early December. This means that e-CertNL sends an electronic phytosanitary certificate via Traces (EU mailbox) and the IPPC hub (global mailbox) to the NPPO of the destination country. The document no longer physically accompanies the shipment, is not printed anymore, and does not bear a 'wet signature.' Adjustments in the systems are necessary for this exchange, both on the part of exporters and in e-CertNL. Once set up for the UK, other non-EU exporting countries are likely to follow quickly. Possible adjustments you need to make for the transition to electronic certification are described below.

Changes in e-CertNL

Hybrid system
E-CertNL is currently being set up as a hybrid system, meaning it is suitable for issuing both paper and electronic certificates. A hybrid system is necessary because, for some situations (at the national and/or international level), an electronic certificate cannot be issued yet. This means that, for the time being, a paper phytosanitary certificate will still be issued for these cases. Examples include mixtures on more than 2 levels, transit countries, some potato-related products, export countries that cannot yet receive electronic certificates, and unforeseen circumstances. E-CertNL assesses whether electronic exchange to the destination country is possible. This will happen during 'Document Issuance,' after which, through a notification in the 'Documents' tab, it will be communicated whether an electronic or paper certificate will be generated. For an electronic certificate, a so-called 'statement' is created instead of the phytosanitary certificate. A 'statement' is generated because an electronic phytosanitary certificate is challenging to read. It contains the same information as the paper certificate, is not authenticated (lacks a wet signature and stamp), and is not an official document.

Completion of web screens
To enable electronic exchange, the web screens of e-CertNL have been adjusted, and some fields must be filled in obligatorily and structured using 'dropdown' lists. Below is an overview of what changes for all sectors and countries as of January 31, 2024:

Products (all sectors)

Fill in at the subshipment level (order line); filling in at the shipment level is no longer sufficient:

  • Number of trade units
  • Treatment (optional)
  • Origin and Reference number of phytosanitary certificate (re-export) for model 20

Address details (all sectors)

Complete additional certificate features:

  • Place of the consignor (UN_LOCODE) (exporter)
  • Place of the consignee (UN_LOCODE) (importer)

Additionally, it is already mandatory to enter address details completely.

Border crossings, transport, and packaging units (all sectors)

  • Declared Point of Entry (UN_LOCODE) (optional)
  • Trade units

Export requirement features (CBN)

For the integration of specific potato products included in the sector application CBN, the specific export requirement feature has already been added and is available. This concerns the feature Category potatoes.

Message book
The above changes do not affect the structure of messages in the message book. Message book users must make some simple adjustments to their ICT systems (code lists) by January 31, 2024, to work with mandatory 'dropdown' lists. Otherwise, electronic phytosanitary certificates cannot be issued. Message book users will be informed separately, as well Floricode, about the necessary adjustments.

There is an upload function that allows attaching documents to a re-export certificate application. It is possible to add three types of documents: the original certificate, inspection document, and other documents necessary for the exchange.

The Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority has built a function in e-CertNL that allows requesting electronic original certificates. This is described in the user manual on the e-CertNL website. The following information is required for this: phytosanitary certificate number, date of issue, and country of issue.

More information about re-export will follow.

Reporting incidents
If there are missing items in the 'dropdown' lists or you encounter other issues with the adjustments, please contact the inspection service helpdesk as usual. The inspection services will forward these questions to the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, and the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority will address them as soon as possible.

The e-CertNL website will soon be supplemented with updated manuals.

Implementation preview

In early January, the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, together with the inspection services, will conduct a test in which the entire system and the hybrid and authentication will be tested. If this test proceeds satisfactorily, the sectors of flower bulbs and perennial plants (underground parts) (CBB), cut flowers, and potted plants (CST) for export to the UK will go live on January 31, 2024. Trees and young plants (CBN) will start on February 15, 2024. More information will be disseminated after this demonstration. Seed potatoes (CAA) and Seed (CZZ) will go live at a later date in 2024 because specific issues within these sectors require more time. Also, the sectors of potatoes, vegetables, and fruits (CAT) and various products (CFA) will go live at a later date.

Demos for Companies

The applicant fills in the data for the export application in e-CertNL. This system generates an electronic certificate if possible and a phytosanitary certificate as a PDF. If this is (still) not possible, only a phytosanitary certificate as a PDF will be issued. In the demos, the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority shows what has changed to enable the issuance of electronic certificates.

In addition to adjustments on the Dutch side, adjustments are also needed on the English side (at your importer or your agents). They must register with IPAFFS and undergo DEFRA training to receive and use the electronic certificate.

If you click on the link below on the correct date and time, you can participate digitally in this demonstration. Therefore, you do not need to register in advance. During testing, it was not necessary to download Teams in advance. It is unclear whether this applies to all situations, so log in on time.

Source: the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority

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