Traders say they have permission to import fruits from Colombo

Importers have urged the government to take steps to nominate a designated officer at the Tiruchi Airport to issue no-objection certificates for consignments of food products and fruits imported from abroad.

In the absence of a designated authority, food products and fruits could not be imported from abroad through the airport now, importers said.

According to sources in the industry, although traders were willing to import exotic fruits such as rambutan and strawberry, they are not able to produce certificates from designated authorities under the Food Safety and Standards Act saying that they were fit for human consumption to obtain Customs clearance. Plant Quarantine and Port Health Office authorities at the airport say they are not authorised to issue the certificates, said an importer, who did not want to be identified. “We have got permits to import about 2,000 tonnes of the fruits from Colombo, but we are unable to bring in the consignments due to the problem,” he says.

When contacted, Customs officials said that without the certification from authorised officers under the Food Safety and Standards Act, they cannot allow imports as per rules. However, they will clear such consignments if the samples are certified from designated port health officers in other places such as Chennai or Tuticorin.

But importers said that it would be impossible to send samples from Tiruchi to get the certificates as the fruits were highly perishable and even a delay of a day or two could result in the fruits turning rotten, they said. Industry sources said if a designated officer was appointed at the airport here, there was good scope for importing food products and fruits from abroad. Although nearly 400 tonnes of cargo was exported through the airport every month on an average, imports remain minimal.

Imports had just started picking up slightly and currently about three or four tonnes of household and electronic consignments were coming in, sources at the airport said. “Imports are gradually picking up and there is good scope for importing fruits from Kuala Lumpur and other destinations,” said K. Hari Moorthy, Sales and Operations Executive, Air Asia, Tiruchi. The airline, he added, was exploring opportunities for transhipment of import consignments to Chennai and other centres through the Tiruchi airport.