Exporters take Kochi and Bengaluru routes to despatch consignments

Insufficient flights and restricted cargo uplift capacity of existing ones is impeding exporters from fully exploiting the demand for vegetables, fruits and other perishables among south Indian expatriates living in West Asia .

With the anticipated introduction of new services to the Middle East from the city failing to materialise, exporters are slowly switching to other destinations such as Kochi and Bengaluru to despatch their consignments.

Although cargo exports from the airport had registered 44 per cent growth during 2012-13, exporters say that there is much more scope for growth. Currently about 400 tonnes of cargo, a major portion of them perishables, are exported through the airport.

About six tonnes of perishables is being exported to Kuwait and Doha via Colombo a day normally, but this depends on the passenger load of the aircrafts.

The higher is the passenger load, the lesser the space made available for cargo.

According to sources, the quantum of export of perishables to Kuwait and Doha has come down substantially over the past 15 days owing to space restrictions.

According to airport sources, Sri Lankan Airways that lifts consignments to West Asian destinations through its two flights to Colombo from the city has been able to spare just about three to three-and-a-half tonnes in recent days owing to heavy passenger load.

Air Asia and Tiger Airways lift substantial loads but the consignments are headed to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore respectively. Strangely, Air India Express, which operates services to Dubai from here, does not lift cargo.

With the Onam festival round the corner, exporters say that they are unable to meet the demand.

“We had to send a special consignment booked ahead of Onam through Bengaluru. We cannot blame the existing airlines as they have to share the available space among exporters. But for us, splitting the consignments mean more costs and importers too do not like it. We need more services or at least wide-bodied aircrafts to lift more cargo from Tiruchi if we are to meet the demand,” said Ratnakumar of AJ Exporters.

“Given the capacity constraints, we could not meet the entire demand. If more airlines introduce services to the city, we can export more. There is even demand for European countries,” says a representative of a clearing and forwarding agency.

Exporters say that there is potential to export up to eight tonnes of perishables to West Asian countries every day.

There is also scope for exporting general cargo. But this would require more services or possibly a freighter service.

A few foreign carriers, a couple of them based in West Asia who had conducted surveys for introducing services from the city, are yet to firm up their plans. Possibly, the delay in expanding the runway held up due to land acquisition could be the possible reason. Expansion of the runway is essential for operating wide-bodied aircrafts, they say.

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