Ministry of Agriculture Takes New Measures to Reduce Bureaucracy and Lower Cost of Living:
The Ministry of Agriculture is advancing new reforms to reduce the regulatory burden on exporters of fruit, vegetables and plant-based products
The new reforms will save some NIS 26 million and about 350,000 wait days annually for permits and tests
Among the reforms: reducing the number of tests export-bound produce must undergo, setting up a computerized, accessible system, cancellation of the requirement to apply a sticker on each and every seedling, etc.
The Ministry of Agriculture is advancing several reforms intended to reduce bureaucracy and the regulatory burden on the exporters. The new plan will save some NIS 26 million and about 350,000 wait days annually. The new reforms will continue to balance between safeguarding the integrity of plant-based products while remaining in compliance with the import requirements in the destination countries on the one hand, and managing costs for all stakeholders on the other hand. The supervision of plant-based products is intended to maintain the levels of safety and health of the agricultural produce exported from the State of Israel and to prevent the arrival of pests inside the produce at foreign countries. This is part of Israel’s obligations under international agreements. The new reforms will take effect in 2018. Some of the areas affected by the new reform: Supervision of manufacture and licensing or fresh produce exporters; supervision of the seed industry; supervision of nurseries and propagation material; supervision of the export of natural enemies and international trade-supporting processes.
Fresh produce export
Until now, the regulator’s inspection processes and the resultant activities have been performed manually. To streamline service to the exporters, the Ministry of Agriculture will be setting up a computerized system for managing the supervisory processes, which will be supported by a support center. These will provide real-time accessibility to all the relevant entities. Nowadays the inspection of fresh produce destined for export has been mandatory both from the quality aspect and from the pest aspect. However, after a re-evaluation of this issue the conclusion reached was that quality issues are primarily a commercial issue in which the government has no reason to be involved. It was therefore decided to scale back the content of the quality tests to the most basic, which will verify that the produce is fit for consumption, such that the responsibility for the quality of the exported produce will lie with the exporter with no government involvement. An exporter seeking to obtain more thorough quality inspection services, in accordance with the requirements of the destination country, will be able to receive them as per his own choice. It has also been decided that a computerized, remote signature system will be assimilated to produce the health certificates confirming the integrity of the plants in the export shipments, in order to relieve the bottleneck involved in having the health certificates signed at the port prior to the shipment. These changes will save considerable bureaucracy and they will produce smoother export processes for the exporters, strengthening Israel’s ability to compete in the international agricultural arena. This move will reduce by 41% the number of wait days and will yield a savings of some NIS 12 million for the exporters.
Supervision of plant-based product exports
In addition, a decision was made to collect quantitative data about the Israeli exports through reporting by the exporters themselves, freeing them of the licensing requirement for this. The Ministry will analyze the data with minimal effort on the part of the exporter. This reform will reduce the number of wait days by 100% (!), saving exporters some NIS 2 million.
Nowadays, exporters are required to perform germination tests on export-bound shipments. These tests are intended to ensure that the exported seeds meet the minimum quality level. However, following a re-evaluation of this issue, it transpired that the quality of the seeds being sold today is mostly well in excess of the legally mandated requirements. Besides, these tests are carried out exclusively by the Ministry and take 3-2 weeks. This prolongs the seeds’ lead time and impact the competitiveness of the seed companies in the international arena. Due to the disadvantages of this practice, the Ministry decided to adapt the regulations to the standard commonly applied in the developed European countries and in the USA, cancelling the requirement for the germination tests on most exported seeds. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture will certify seed company employees, who will undergo suitable training, to perform part of the regulatory processes currently performed by the Ministry. They will be subject to umbrella supervision according to the OECD policy. The Ministry will also be developing a computerized system for tracking laboratory tests. This will enable sending laboratory tests to non-governmental laboratories, thereby increasing the number of service providers offering the tests to the seed companies and improving the quality of the supervision to ensure the seeds are disease-free. The new plan will reduce bureaucratic processes, improve the service delivered to the seed companies and harmonize the regulatory requirements with the modern requirements prevalent in the developed world. All in all, these plans are expected to cut the wait days by 54% and to save exporters some NIS 10 million per year.
To differentiate supervised seedlings from non-supervised seedlings, each nursery is required to apply a labeling sticker to each seedling. However it was found that the process of applying a sticker to each individual seedling separately incurs very high costs to the growers, and that in any case it can be replaced with a labeling of the entire shipment. Another decision is to upgrade the nursery license. The new license will be in English and will serve for international contacts. It will include a declaration that the nursery does not deal in genetically-engineered propagation material. Risk management mechanisms will also be assimilated into the planning of the nursery supervision, such that higher-risk nurseries will undergo more thorough inspections, and lower-risk nurseries - will be less subject to inspection. The risk level will be determined according to a host of parameters such as: plant types at the nursery, past inspection history etc. Thus an incentive will be created to comply with the regulatory requirements and also the supervision will be better focused and more efficient. The new plan will improve the competitiveness between the growers and the wholesalers. This will reduce costs for the farmers and the customers, it will reduce about 36% of the cost of the bureaucracy and 31% of the wait days, yielding some NIS 2.2 million per year for the exporting nurseries.
Currently some of the export and import shipments to and from Israel are required to undergo a fumigation process. In order to obtain a fumigator license, each potential fumigator is required to write a procedure detailing his work methods and this has to be approved by the Ministry of Agriculture. This process is lengthy and it creates a sizable burden both for the fumigators and for the Ministry. To streamline the process and in order to achieve optimum control over the fumigators’ work processes, it has been decided to cancel this requirement and to require all the companies to operate in accordance with the fumigator procedure written by the Ministry’s experts. Besides this, nowadays the fumigator is given a temporary certificate valid for three months, following which, if he has treated the produce optimally, he will be granted a fumigator license, which he will be required to renew annually. As part of the bureaucracy-reducing plan, the Ministry of Agriculture has decided to extend the validity of the permanent license to three years. Furthermore, since each kind of agricultural produce has to undergo a different kind of fumigation, the fumigators are required to contact the Ministry to receive instructions on how to perform the fumigation. The Ministry has decided to replace this procedure by publishing a book, which will contain all of the treatments required for export and import, thereby saving on the need to contact the Ministry to obtain the information. These moves will shorten the currently-prevailing wait periods by 89%.