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Hard times for Indian-Afghan air tradeTons of fruit are rotting at the Kabul airport after a shortage of cargo planes has left fruit exporters with no way of getting their products to the necessary destinations.
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.
“We were told that all these procedural delays would be sorted out within a month of the corridor starting, but there are yet to be resolved,” Sayam Pasarlay, the spokesperson for the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), told The Hindu over the phone from Kabul.
As a result, according to figures from both the ACCI and the Indian Embassy in Kabul, only four cargo flights have flown between Afghanistan and India under the scheme, carrying about 160 tonnes in all.
Publication date: 8/8/2017
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