Digital technologies and trade

Standards and Trade Development Facility

The Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) is a global partnership which works to strengthen food safety, animal and plant health capacity in developing countries by encouraging the use of good practices – including through digital technologies – to facilitate safe trade worldwide.


The STDF brings together public and private sector stakeholders from across agriculture, health, trade and development.

The STDF supports developing countries to comply with international sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements, as outlined in the WTO's SPS Agreement. Exporters must meet standards for food safety, animal and plant health to gain and maintain access to agri-food markets.

The goal is to build long-lasting SPS capacity in developing countries, contributing to sustainable economic growth, poverty reduction and food security. The STDF works to achieve this goal in two main ways:

  • funding collaborative, innovative SPS capacity building projects at the national, regional and global levels
  • identifying and promoting the use of good practices to develop SPS capacity.

STDF founding partners are the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, which also houses the Codex and IPPC Secretariats, the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), the World Bank Group, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the WTO.


By convening and connecting stakeholders, and piloting and learning from innovative, collaborative and cross-cutting approaches, the STDF influences and catalyses SPS capacity development work globally. This work increasingly involves the use of innovation and technology to keep safe trade flowing, a move that has accelerated with the arrival of COVID-19.

The STDF Strategy 2020-2024 focuses on achieving two interconnected outcomes to contribute to the overall goal of increased and sustainable SPS capacity in developing countries:

  • More synergies and collaboration driving catalytic SPS improvements in developing countries: Drawing on the expertise of its partners, the STDF identifies, develops and disseminates good practices and knowledge products that focus attention on topics that cut across food safety, animal and plant health and trade to influence and support SPS capacity development. This work promotes access to guidance and tools developed by STDF members to support their wider use at global, regional and national level.
  • Greater access to, and use of, good practices and knowledge products at global, regional and national level: Drawing on the expertise of its partners, the STDF identifies, develops and disseminates good practices and knowledge products that focus attention on topics that cut across food safety, animal and plant health and trade to influence and support SPS capacity development. This work promotes access to guidance and tools developed by STDF members to support their wider use at global, regional and national level.

STDF support for digital trade

The STDF supports digital trade in various ways, as outlined below.

Electronic SPS certification (eCert)

Since the late 1970s, exporting countries have used paper certificates to prove their plant or plant product exports meet the phytosanitary requirements of the importing country. An STDF project that ended in 2020 supported the development of a central server (called the “Hub”) to facilitate the exchange of electronic phytosanitary certificates (ePhytos) between countries. To date, 110 countries or territories have connected to the Hub. About 100,000 ePhytos were exchanged per month in 2021. This figure was around 50,000 per month in 2020.

The STDF Secretariat services the SPS Electronic Certification Advisory Committee (ECAC). The Committee's main functions are to:

  • provide a discussion forum to share experiences related to the implementation of SPS eCert activities and initiatives across various standard setting bodies
  • develop projects to enhance eCert harmonization, building upon existing approaches and initiatives, such as ePhyto, eVet, single windows, eCITES, etc.
  • identify opportunities for international organizations to collaborate on eCert and other data exchange initiatives.

Remote audit and verification

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is using an STDF grant to identify practices used by food safety regulators to remotely inspect food business operators in developing countries. These types of inspection practices have been gaining more attention due to COVID-19. As part of this work, regulators participate in the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems to exchange experiences and information. Stakeholders will also identify pilot countries where these best practices could be introduced or further improved.

The STDF, in collaboration with UNIDO, conducted a global survey to collect information on best practices for remote inspection and verification in 2022, the results of which will be presented at the Vienna Food Safety Forum (3-5 October).

E-spice bazaar for business matchmaking

An STDF project is helping to increase the quality of Indian spices for export by addressing food safety challenges along select value chains, and by connecting producers with buyers through an online portal.

The project, active from 2019 to 2022, connects producers with buyers through the “E-spice Bazaar”, which facilitates the matchmaking of farmers with national, regional and global buyers. SPS requirements of key buyers are also available on the portal.

Through the project, farmers and small-scale producers – especially those in marginalized communities – are learning to implement good practices in the production, post-harvesting, processing and trading of select spices, helping to improve consumer health and livelihoods.

Digital tracking of plant pests

Innovative information technology (IT) tools played a central role in supporting pest surveillance and data tracking in an STDF project active from 2016 to 2022 in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. Staff of national plant protection organizations (NPPOs) received training to use a customized “Pest-tracker” or “P-tracker” app installed on an iPad to collect geocoded pest data in the field, and to import that data into a simple, low-cost, in-house information system for analysis.

Using the P-tracker app reduced human error in collecting, mapping and transferring data, and it also assisted in the early detection of high-priority quarantine pests thanks to real-time data sharing and alerts.

Trainings enabled NPPO staff to compile credible pest lists, to demonstrate pest status to maintain market access and to meet reporting obligations. Several NPPOs indicated that they will continue using IT tools for pest surveillance following the end of the project.

Mobile app-based animal tagging

An STDF project from 2019 to 2022 developed an improved animal identification and registration system (AIRS) in Mongolia, a key step to promoting livestock exports and to addressing animal health issues, including zoonoses.

Partners updated and approved standard operating procedures and regulations. They also created and piloted an IT system with a mobile app connected to the national livestock registration and information database.

Over 340 herders, veterinarians, identification field operators and other stakeholders received training on the updated standard operating procedures as well as animal tagging and registration using the mobile app. More than 190,000 animals were tagged as part of this pilot project. Slaughterhouse staff also received training on database management.

Mongolia's Government is drawing on experiences and lessons learned under the pilot to inform new investments to scale up AIRS and support the national e-Agriculture Strategy launched in 2020. In addition to facilitating meat exports, this will improve public veterinary services, disease surveillance and control of contagious diseases and help to address environmental problems linked to overgrazing.

STDF project funding

The STDF provides grants of up to US$ 1 million for projects that tackle food safety, animal and plant health challenges affecting trade in international markets. A government organization, business or NGO can apply for STDF funding by meeting the basic requirements below.

Projects should:

  • benefit stakeholders in developing countries, including women, small-scale entrepreneurs, government authorities
  • help meet international standards for food safety, animal and plant health to boost trade
  • involve and promote collaboration between key players in government and business
  • build on existing projects, programmes or initiatives
  • lead to sustainable results.

In addition to funding projects, the STDF provides up to US$ 50,000 for project preparation grants (PPGs), which can be used to apply SPS capacity evaluation tools, prepare feasibility studies or create project proposals.

Project and PPG applications are reviewed and approved twice a year by the STDF Working Group made up of STDF founding partners, donors and developing-country experts.

To apply, see the guidance note for applicants and visit the funding webpage.

Other resources

To stay up to date with the work of the STDF or to get involved:



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