AAI officials expect over 50 p.c. growth during current fiscal

Cargo exports from Tiruchi Airport continue to climb up steadily and the Airports Authority of India is expecting over 50 per cent growth during the current financial year. The air cargo terminal here has registered a high of 410 tonnes of cargo during May.

Vegetables and fruits account for a major portion of the volumes, despite the slump in production owing to the drought conditions and the spurt in the price of various vegetables. But for this, the volume would have been much higher, airport sources said.

In March this year, the air cargo terminal had handled 395 tonnes and the figure has touched 410 tonnes in May. The previous high was 313 tonnes handled in January early this year. Cargo exports from the airport had registered 44 per cent growth in 2012-13 and this year the growth is expected to be more than 50 per cent. The cargo terminal handled 2,920 tonnes of cargo in 2012-13 against 2,022 tonnes recorded in the previous financial year. “We expect to handle a minimum of 4,500 tonnes during the current fiscal,” S. Dharmaraj, Airport Director, told The Hindu.

Airport officials attribute the steady growth to increase in uplift capacity, especially after Tiger Airways started lifting cargo from here to Singapore in September last year. Sri Lankan Airlines, Air Asia, and Mihin Lanka, were the other carriers lifting cargo from here. With Air Asia expected to introduce a third daily frequency on the Tiruchi-Kuala Lumpur sector from July, the uplift capacity would increase further, Mr. Dharmaraj said.

Consignments were mainly sent to Kuwait, Dubai, Colombo, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Colombo. The export market to Europe was still untapped for want of connectivity, said A. Moorthy, Branch Manager, Skyfield India Pvt. Ltd., a major clearing and forwarding agency in Tiruchi.

“There is much more demand for vegetables and fruits even from Gulf countries. But given the capacity constraints, we could not cater to the demand. If more airlines introduce services to the city, we can export more,” Mr. Moorthy said. The AAI was extending full support with consignments being handled even on Sundays at the cargo terminal, he added. The composition of the cargo exported from Tiruchi was expanding gradually to include readymade garments, fabrics, leather goods, pharma products, fish, and crabs.

However, assorted vegetables and fruits constitute more than 85 per cent of the volumes.

The slump in production caused by drought in the region was impacting on the exports, say some of the exporters. “Even though we don’t mind the price rise, we could not meet the orders fully as we face problems in procurement as production has come down of late,” says a representative of another export agency.