What is a Phytosanitary Certificate in Logistics?

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO), via the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), has imposed 42 ISPM standards, 29 diagnostic protocols, and 32 phytosanitary treatments to protect the world’s plant resource from the spread of pests. 180 participating nations have collectively agreed to the ISPM standards and individually ratify the rules to suit the country’s needs. So, what is a phytosanitary certificate then?

The phytosanitary certificate is a document of proof that the commodity, primarily live agricultural products and live animals, has undergone all the necessary protocols and treatment to remove all damaging pests. A phytosanitary certificate can only be issued following an inspection by an authorized person. The certificate is mainly applied by the exporting country, and the importing country may require the certificate as a condition to allow the cargo’s entry into the importing country.

Following this article, we will look at why the phytosanitary certificate is required, the different treatment to meet the ISPM standards, the application documents required for a phytosanitary certificate in the USA, and additional information that we think can help the exporters and transport service providers to understand more on this certificate requirement.

Why is the Phytosanitary Certificate Required?

The FAO paints a grim picture of the lasting impacts of pest infestations. 20-40 percent of global crop yields are damaged each year as a result of pests, that is the livelihood of farmers, distributors, and the wellbeing of direct consumers. The agriculture business is a 1.1 trillion USD industry, it is a national concern that pests do not find its way into the ecosystem.

Moreover, the cost of pest control is astounding. According to the FAO, the Republic of South Korea spent USD 400 million to eradicate the pinewood nematode pests. This had a devastating effect on the pine forests in South Korea, moreover, the pests can potentially spread to neighboring countries. The Korean Forest Research Institute (KFRI) has even paved the way to preserve pine trees by cloning its DNA.

Controlled Pest Phytosantiary Certificate
Larva of the pinewood nematode pest kills pinewood tree

Our ecosystem is highly dependent on every variable being in the right condition, the water acidity, water level, pests, plant types, the mix of carnivores and herbivores in the food chain, etc… Our modern way of life tends to disrupt such an ecosystem, whether with intention or unknowingly.

The role of a phytosanitary certificate cannot be discounted as it has a domino effect on the world’s forest and agriculture business that may hamper the global economy.

This is why organizations such as the IPPC impose strict guidelines and procedures when it comes to the international trade of live plants, as those live plants may fester indigenous pests from the exporting country that could destroy the importing country’s flora and fauna.

Pests Governing Body Structures

Perhaps it helps when we understand the structure in which the FAO controls the spread of pests on a global scale.

Organizational Structure Phytosanitary Certificate

Upon a nation’s participation of the United Nations (UN), the country has subscribed to the UN’s purpose of world peace, as daunting a prospect as it seems, requires special agencies to supplement the UN’s cause. The FAO is such an agency, which has the primary purpose to reduce world hunger.

Even the purpose of reducing world hunger sustainably may seem overreaching, the organization then erected IPPC (International Plant Protection Convention) which concerns itself with everything pertaining to plant protection of the global scale.

IPPC as an organization cannot work alone to preserve world plants, hence they implemented standards and protocols for the 180 participating nations to ratify as a guide to controlling pest infestations. The standards that we mentioned is called The International Standards of Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM)

At a country level, the government then forms a body such as the department of agriculture to implement the standards and protocols set by the IPPC.

As an example, the US Department of Agriculture has delegated this particular task to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to regulate all matters pertaining to the plant and animal trade.

Each year, the IPPC hosts an International Steering Committee to ensure every participating nation has a full understanding of the intention and the procedures of the standards, as well as implement new standards if need be.

Are Fumigation Certificates and Phytosanitary Certificates the Same?

Here are some of the commonalities of a fumigation certificate and a phytosanitary certificate.

Both are documents to certify that bugs or pests are eliminated from the cargo. Whereas the primary difference is that fumigation is one of the methods of eradicating plant pests. Once the cargo has undergone the necessary fumigation procedure, the fumigators will issue a certified fumigation certificate.

On the other hand, the phytosanitary certificate is issued upon necessary inspections. The inspection can be in the form of document inspections or lab test reports.

As one of the conditions of an issue of a phytosanitary certificate, the authorizer may want to look at the fumigation certificate before certifying that the cargo commodity is pest free.

Hence, there are instance where an export shipment’s cargo may require both a fumigation and a phytosanitary certificate.

How to get the Phytosanitary Certificate in the USA?

As we have mentioned, the relevant governing agency for plant imports and exports is the US DOA agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

The specific form to fill to request for an inspection from the APHIS is the PPQ Form 572.

The application requires the following information: –

  1. Consignor and Consignee Information
  2. Applicant information (person other than the consignor)
  3. Description of cargo
  4. Inspection location
  5. Port of Export
  6. Estimated time of departure

In addition, the IPPC’s ISPM standards also extends to cargo that are made for re-export.

With the information prepared in the PPQ Form 572, the APHIS agents will issue a PPQ Form 577, 578 or 579, which is the phytosanitary certificate required for exportation.

Click here for the Sample PPQ 577 Form

Note that phytosanitary certificates are not valid until once the certificate is: –

  1. Signed
  2. Stamped
  3. Marked or electronically approved by the NPPO of the exporting country

Additional Resources

Export certificate forms https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/planthealth/sa_export/sa_forms/ct_export_certificates_forms

list of controlled plant pests. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/planthealth/import-information/rppl/rppl-table

Import Permit Required Plants – https://wwww.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/planthealth/import-information/permits/plants-and-plant-products-permits





Hello! I'm Kelvin, I work as a custom broker and I'm thrilled with having the experience to share my industry knowledge with you. I hope that you enjoy reading them as much as I do posting them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts