E-certification (e-Phytos) used by other countries is not used by Defra, what are the practical implications of Defra requiring original copies of certification when only a small number would be checked?

  • There is a COVID-19 easement in place as part of the Office Control Regulations that allows the exporter/importer to send a scanned copy of the phytosanitary certificate, which APHA complete documentary checks on. This scanned copy is uploaded to PEACH alongside the pre-notification application.
  • The original copy should then be sent via mail to the APHA office in York* within 3 days or as soon as possible. Authorities are pragmatic with this approach and realise there may be delays which mean the original document will not arrive in 3 days. The COVID-19 easement are due to end in February, same as EU counterparts. If this easement is extended beyond February Defra will communicate this.
  • The original phytosanitary certificate is still required as soon as possible to undertake audits against the scanned copy. For instance, many non-EU third countries use embossing for authentication purposes on their phytosanitary certificates and this cannot be seen on the scanned copy.
  • The UK has started to look at the prospect of joining the ePhyto solution for both imports and exports but this is largely dependent on wider Defra and UK government IT initiatives and therefore will not be in place for 01 Jan 2021. The UK has registered its interest with the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) which has ownership of the ePhyto solution and there have been subsequent discussions between Defra, APHA and the ePhyto IT development team.  Once connected to the ePhyto solution there will be need for bilateral negations with trading partners before an exchange of ePhytos can begin. This will mean that there will be dual systems running until all countries have bilaterally agreed the exchange of electronic phytosanitary certificates.