TRADE in agricultural commodities is the next frontier for the United Nations Conference Trade and Development (UNCTAD)’s automated system for customs data programme which reduces bureaucracy, corruption, and trade delays in as many as 93 developing countries including Zambia.
UNCTAD’s division on technology and logistics of automated system for customs data chief Fabrice Millet said a few more countries had requested UNCTAD support to implement the programme which covered other horticultural products such as coffee, grain, and tea.
Mr Millet said the world’s rapidly growing demand for food represented a major opportunity for agricultural producers in the developing world.
He said an efficient customs clearance system would be vital to satisfy complex phyto-sanitary requirements, reducing delays and wastage.
He said the Automated System for Customs Data software was adapted to facilitate customs clearance for horticultural products and certification too in a sub-programme.
He said for example, “Flowers are especially perishable, and cutting customs clearance times could bring significant benefits to farmers, instead of queuing at the airport, farmers can use the internet from their farms, which might be half a day’s drive from the airport, to obtain the necessary phyto-sanitary certificates, to cut clearance times from hours to minutes,” he said.
Mr Millet said by making customs controls more efficient for horticultural goods, the program could also help protect against the risks of invasive species and the spread of pests and disease.
Mr Millet said he would be glad to see the project benefit developing, adding that Automated System for Customs Data was UNCTAD’s largest technical assistance program.
“By automating customs systems, the program allows the collection of data to help with both the implementation of international conventions and with the creation of statistics for governments’ analysis and planning,” he said.
According to World Bank figures customs collections had grown dramatically from $50 million in 2002-2003 to more than $1 billion in 2012, and contributing more than 35 percent of government revenues in 2014-2015.