Tanzania, Netherlands sign e-cert deal to boost horticultural sector

TANZANIA and The Netherlands have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation commitment to strengthen electronic certification (e-cert) for sanitary and phytosanitary processes in the country’s horticultural sector.

The MoU was signed in Dodoma yesterday by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Gerald Mweli and Ambassador of The Netherlands to Tanzania, Mr Wiebe de Boer on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands.

A phytosanitary certificate verifies agricultural products have been inspected and are pest and disease free. The Agriculture PS, Mr Mweli, thanked The Netherlands for supporting Tanzania in its endeavour to boost agricultural sector productivity.

“The deal inked between Tanzania and The Netherlands is of paramount importance in the quest to improve the horticultural sector and its contribution to the economy,” he said, adding that use of modern technology will bring about revolution in the agriculture sector, improve livelihoods of the farmers and the sector’s contribution to the economy.

Ambassador De Boer said The Netherlands is ready to share knowledge, expertise, technologies and innovations for sustainable horticultural trade to meet the growing demand for food in the country and the region.

“The horticultural sector in Tanzania has shown tremendous growth over the last three decades becoming one of the main foreign exchange earners,” the Ambassador said.

The two countries have a long-standing cooperation that spans beyond 40 years. About 80 Dutch companies are operating in Tanzania, 70 per cent have invested in the agricultural sector, of which majority are in the horticultural sector, mostly in the northern circuit.

The signing was witnessed by the Regional Agricultural Counsellor from the Netherlands Embassy, Mr Bart Pauwels, TAHA and other sector actors.

The signed MoU will be implemented by the National Plant Protection Organisations (NPPOs) from Tanzania, Tanzania Plant Health and Pesticide Authority (TPHPA) and the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA).

Horticultural exports account for a significant portion of total export value amounting to 779 million US dollars in 2019.

Currently, the sector is the main source of livelihood for about 4.5 million farmers comprised of both small and large-scale farmers of which the majority are women and youth.

The export process of horticultural produce requires phytosanitary certification by the Tanzanian Plant Health Service (PHS).  This is a ‘paper-driven’ process that involves attestation by competent inspectors and represents guarantees (safeguards) to the importing countries’ competent authorities.

A phytosanitary certificate accompanies an export consignment to the port of entry of the importing country and therefore acts as a passport to the product.

One of the limitations of a paper phytosanitary certificate is that it is prepared manually; therefore, accounts for a significant portion of time spent by phytosanitary inspectors in their daily work.

The TPHPA issues a big number of certificates annually and the time spent in their manual writing and signing is significant.

Also, paper certificates represent permanent records that cannot be corrected in the event a mistake has been made in their entry, or if the characteristics of the export consignment change during the export process.

Such a change may be occasioned by the need to change the amount of product to be exported due to changes in cargo space, which happens quite often during routine export operations.

Since a paper certificate accompanies a consignment during export, it is difficult for port officials of an importing country to pre-clear a consignment of known history before its arrival and this results in unnecessary delays at ports, even for routine cargo.

The cooperation will result in efficiency in agricultural trade eventually creating more jobs and foreign earnings.

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