If you export plants and plant-based products from Australia, you must include a very important certificate in your export documents. Known as a phytosanitary certificate, it not only certifies the quality of export goods but also attests to the reputation of an exporter. So, the questions that may arise in your mind, especially if you are exporting for the first time, include:
First, what is the phytosanitary certificate?
Second, why is it so important?
Third, who issues it?
Also, how to obtain it?
Let’s answer each of these questions one by one.
What Is Phytosanitary Certificate?
In general, a phytosanitary certificate certifies the health of plants and plant-based products before their export from one country to another. Hence, any exporter from any country (and not just Australia) must have this certificate ready to meet the international trade norms.
Going further, it meets the export legislation of the exporting country as well as the importing country requirements. For example, if you exporting any good in the category of plants and plant-based products from Australia, the included phytosanitary certificate should be in accordance to:
Australian Plan Export Legislation – Under this, the certificate must abide by:
Export Control Act 2020
Export Control (Plants and Plant Product) Rules 2021
It is worth mentioning that the new plants export legislation came into being on 28 March 2021. According to it, a number of changes were introduced to affect the overall process of obtaining a phytosanitary certificate. You can easily access these changes from the official website of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (awe.gov.au).
Importing Country Requirements – Along with meeting the Australian export legislation, the certificate should also adhere to the import requirements of the destination country. For this, you can do two things:
Refer to MICoR (Manual of Importing Country Requirements) that contains detailed information about import permits and phytosanitary certificates for each country. You can find it available at micor.agriculture.gov.au.
Contact the NPPO (National Plant Protection Organisation) of the country you want to export to. By contacting them, you can obtain up-to-date information in writing.
Why Is It Important?
As an exporter, you must take the responsibility of exporting safe, high-quality and healthy plant-based products. That’s what a phytosanitary certificate acts as a testimony to. Briefly, it certifies that the products you are exporting:
Don’t contain any form of infestation that includes quarantine pests and injurious pests
Have undergone prescribed testing and treatment procedures
Are in absolute agreement with the existing Australian legislation as well as the destination country’s phytosanitary norms
Now, what happens if the products you export don’t meet the importing country’s requirements and regulations? Needless to say, it can lead to many serious consequences:
The importing country may destroy the entire consignment
You may need to get the products back to Australia at your own cost
Above all, it may spoil your business relations with the importer
Also, it may deprive you of trade opportunities in the future
Thus, it is necessary that you follow the right guidelines to obtain a phytosanitary certificate in the correct format.
Who Issues the Certificate?
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Australia controls the export of plants and plant products. Hence, the department issues phytosanitary certificates after following a definite procedure.
Here, it is important to know that the department issues these certificates in three ways:
First, electronically using its EXDOC system. An exporter must submit a request for permit using a 3rd party software to the system. He/she must prepare a certificate with all necessary details and submit it for stamping by the department.
Second, electronically using its e-Cert system. The only difference is that the department directly shares the certificate with the importing country, thereby reducing exporters’ efforts.
Third, manually in the form of a paper phytosanitary certificate. Though, it issues them only in special cases like technical glitches in its electronic systems.
How to Obtain It?
In order to obtain a phytosanitary certificate, you need to submit a request for permit. Before that, you must follow some very important steps. These include:
Identify Your Products’ Classification: The Australian plant export law classifies plants and plant products into two categories:
Prescribed, including certain grains and legumes, all fresh fruits and vegetables and others like nuts, cotton, fodder, timber products etc.
Now, you need a phytosanitary certificate in two situations:
Firstly, if you export prescribed goods
Secondly, if the importing country demands one
Register with the Department: You must register with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment as one of the following:
An electronic data interface (EDI) user in order to raise request for permit
A registered establishment to not only prepare and store the goods interned for export but also to facilitate inspection of goods. In case you don’t have such a facility, you can rely on third-party registered establishments
An accredited property (if you export horticulture products)
An Authorized Officer (AO) to carry out inspection of goods. An exporter (or one of his/her employees) may register as an AO with the Department. Alternatively, you can rely on the Department to assign an AO or hire a third-party AO
Prepare Your Goods: Finally, you must prepare your products not only for export but also for inspection. For this, you must follow the guidelines regarding packaging, storing and transport of goods.
Once you are done with each of these tasks, the next task is to prepare a phytosanitary certificate. Clearly, you need to be careful while providing information like:
Exporter’s name and address
Consignee’s name and address
Place of origin of goods
The country as well as the entry point of final destination
Means of transport (air, sea or mail)
Consignment details like name of produce, number of packages, quantity, botanical names, total net contents etc.
Details about any disinfection treatment, if done
Once the AO completes the inspection and finds everything at the place, he/she would issue a phytosanitary certificate with a unique number. It is important that you use the right third-party software to communicate with EXDOC and also for recordkeeping, auditing and reporting.