October 3, 2023

Innovative ECOS Launch Marks Highlight Veterinary Week 2023

The Western Cape Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Services has introduced its groundbreaking Export Certificate Office System (ECOS) during a recent event, coinciding with the Western Cape’s inaugural Veterinary Week from 25 – 29 September 2023, which focused the role of state veterinary services in agriculture, particularly export facilitation.

Dr. Vincent Henwood, Head of the Veterinary Export Certification Office, explained that ECOS is an online system aimed at ensuring compliance in South Africa’s food and animal products industry. He emphasized: “The platform provides permit templates aligned with importing countries’ import permits, streamlining the export process, and ensuring compliance with international standards. ECOS enables tracking of products, including animal-derived ones, back to their source farms, thus ensuring transparency throughout the supply chain.”

Speaking at the launch, the Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Ivan Meyer, welcomed ECOS as an innovative platform enhancing government services, stating, “ECOS provides the customer with a 24-hour export facilitation service which reduces the export certificate application process from days to minutes. The Western Cape currently exports 55% of South Africa’s primary agricultural products. ECOS will also assist in increasing these exports to at least 60%. Exports contribute to foreign exchange earnings and a 5% increase in exports will lead to approximately 22 000 new jobs in the sector.”

“Due to the location and history of South Africa, we have an extremely diverse set of products, factories, and processes.  We also have a complex food and export legislative system with different authorities (6 religious, state, and authorised signatories). This creates the possibility for synergies between authorities as they are often working on similar products and in the same locations,” continued Minister Meyer.

“In light of our endemic diseases, our rich diversity of wildlife, and our animal health system we need to have a systems approach to disease (human and animal) risk mitigation and international trade in animal products. Due to the many role-players communication and coordination is key. This is challenging in a resource-constrained environment. ECOS can help to coordinate communication and increase cooperation at food processing establishments between authorities,” added Minister Meyer.

Heidi Fourie, from La Montanara (Pty) Ltd, a cheese factory in Ashton, shared her positive experience with ECOS: “As a small dairy business we do not have time to struggle to complete the significant paperwork that accompanies an export certificate application. The wait often negatively impacts product shelf life and quality. ECOS has changed this. While uploading my company’s profile onto the ECOS platform was initially time-consuming, it now takes approximately five minutes to get an export certificate approved.”

Minister Meyer expressed gratitude for clients’ feedback, stating that their input was invaluable in refining ECOS. He also outlined plans for a national rollout with the support of the National Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development, envisioning a comprehensive system for traceability and compliance at a national scale, benefiting rural producers.

The Veterinary Week concluded with visits to the Veterinary Export Certification Office in Milnerton and the Spar, one of the Veterinary Export Certification Office’s major clients, the Western Cape Distribution Centre in Philippi, highlighting the significance of ECOS in improving export control and compliance within South Africa’s food and animal products industry.