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Official Remarks by The Honourable Minister, Ministry of Agriculture,

Event: Official launch of the NaPHIS Portal at The Happy Valley

Date: 10 September 2020

Honourable Minister, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade

Principal Secretary

Partners from industry

CEOs from different Parastatals

Government officials

Media houses

Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me begin by thanking you all for honouring this important launch. I am aware that you have a number of other important activities to attend to in your respective offices but you decided to come and be part of this event. This goes to show how you value initiatives by the Ministry of Agriculture in which you are key stakeholders. Today we are here to launch the National Plant Health Inspection Services Portal, a tool that we believe will not only allow our stakeholders to have easy access to information but also access to services that were previously not easily accessible.

Programme director, ladies and gentlemen, I hope you will all recall that during the last Sibaya, the Ministry of Agriculture was identified as one of the sectors that can turn around the economy of the Kingdom of Eswatini. This has been emphasised in the recently presented Post COVID 19 Kingdom of Eswatini Economic Recovery Plan. As a Ministry, one of our roles in turning around the economy is to provide an enabling environment in which the sector can perform to its optimum potential.

Over the years, Eswatini has been producing and exporting to international markets products such as citrus, banana, avocados, baby vegetables and timber, thus earning a considerable amount of foreign income. At the same time the country has imported a number of commodities such as fruits and vegetables to supplement local supply. As these commodities move in and out of the country, Eswatini is expected to comply with international standards that govern the movement of plants and plant products as provided for under the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). The portal we are launching today is aimed at ensuring ease of doing business among stakeholders who are in the plants and plant products import/export business.

The portal will enable exporters/importers to apply for phytosanitary services online from the comfort of their offices or homes. This will not only cut the hassle of travelling to Malkerns to acquire these services but will also save time and costs of doing business. We believe that this facility has come at an opportune time when the Government is discouraging the movement of people from place to place as one way of curbing the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic.

As we digitalise our system we want to align ourselves with the rest of our partners who are already operating electronically. With this portal we hope to be able to link with Eswatini Revenue Authority’s Asycuda World system and the Single Window system. Honourable Minister, we have been working closely with your team that is developing the Eswatini Trade Information Portal which we are informed will be launched soon. We strongly believe that these two systems will complement each other and provide valuable information and service to our clients. We also believe that this portal will contribute to the Government of Eswatini’s effort to roll out the e-government system including the population registry. At international level, the IPPC secretariat of the Food and Agriculture Organization is promoting the issuance of electronic phytosanitary certificates aimed at phasing out the use of paper-based documents and curbing delays at the points of entry since the electronic certificates are sent directly to the importing country and all points of entry even before the consignment gets there. With this portal in place Eswatini has positioned herself to be in line with these new developments.

The system has been developed with close guidance and monitoring by our Government Computer Services to which we are grateful. They made sure that our system is compatible with the rest of Government systems and adheres to high level of security hence producing documents that will be difficult to counterfeit.

The system will also allow our plant health inspection services to store information on national pests status such as national pest list, list of quarantine pests, regulated non quarantine pests as well as records of plant and plant products imports and exports. Honorable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen allow me to proudly say that with this system and portal, Eswatini has taken a giant leap to the first world way before 2022.

To stakeholders, let me thank you for being patient with us while we were using the old manual system. We are aware of the challenges you encountered as you exported and imported all the regulated products in and out of the country. We hope with the introduction of the digital system our joint operations will be made much easier and faster. We call upon you to make proper use of the portal and maximise on opportunities. Please note that as we migrate from the old manual to the digital system, we are required by international standards both under the IPPC and World Trade Organization to notify our trading partners of the changes and allow them time to adjust. This includes making them aware of the new documents such as new phytosanitary certificates and import permits. It is on this premise that we wish to make you aware that for the next three months after the launch we will be running both systems concurrently while phasing out the manual system. For further information on how this will work out you are more than welcome to contact our office at Malkerns Research Station.

Let me now take this opportunity to thank all our partners who have been with us throughout the journey of developing this portal. Special gratitude goes to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade for their support through the Trade Related Facility project funded by the European Union, the EU for financing the project, Computer Services for their technical support, our consultants for their technical expertise and to all the Ministry of Agriculture staff for their dedication in seeing this project and event thus far, Bravo. I am proud of you. Once again thank you all for coming. I wish you a safe trip back to your respective stations. I urge you, your companies and families to adhere to the COVID 19 guidelines, regular washing of hands, proper wearing of masks and maintaining a safe social distance.

Honourable Minister, ladies and gentlemen let me now declare the National Plant Health Inspection Services Portal officially launched.

I thank you and God bless us all.

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