Monday, August 07, 2017

India-Afghan air trade facing tough times

New Delhi: Weeks after the India-Afghanistan air corridor trade project was launched, the project has run into rough weather, with fruit exporters complaining that procedural delays, particularly a shortage of cargo planes, are causing them major losses.
Matters came to a head last week, when tonnes of fresh fruits, including apricots and melons, were left rotting at the Kabul airport. The flight chartered by Afghanistan’s national carrier, Ariana airlines, on July 20 failed to arrive on time, and the fruits were not moved to cold storage. Much of the load went only on July 29, officials say. Angered by the losses, traders, who say as much as 120 tonnes of fruits are still waiting to be transported from the airport, demanded that the government take swift action or they would find it hard to continue exporting perishable produce to India.
Calling the reports of more than 100 tonnes of rotting fruits “inaccurate and misleading”, India’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Manpreet Vohra, however, admitted that the lack of a secured provider for chartered flights had caused some disruptions.
“Some fruit did go bad, but the exporters also cut corners by not using cold storages sufficiently,” he said, adding that the the Afghan government was sorting out issues in chartering aircraft.
Among the issues, say exporters, is the lack of “cargo screening machines” that necessitates packaging and repackaging, and the lack of adequate cold storage facilities at the airport. On the Indian side, traders say they worry about clearing the perishable goods quickly through Indian customs, and the process is yet to be streamlined.
07/08/17 Suhasini Haidar/The Hindu

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