The Tiruchi International Airport has been witnessing exports of vegetables and fruits to select foreign countries by non-scheduled overseas flights despite the lockdown.
Activities at the international cargo terminal, which came to a standstill since late March when the lockdown was clamped, resumed in early May when the first shipment of overseas cargo was lifted from this non-metro international airport.
Since then, there has been steady movement of overseas freight now and then lifted by different overseas carriers to Singapore, Dubai and Kuwait.
Airport sources said in the last one month alone about 185 tonnes of cargo was exported from the airport which has also seen movement of evacuation flights to bring back Indians stranded abroad and rescue flights to take back stranded Malaysian nationals from Tamil Nadu.
Maximum quantity of overseas freight consisting of vegetables, fruits and curry leaves was lifted to Singapore during the past month. A little over 160 tonnes of freight was lifted by Spice Jet and IndiGo airlines to Singapore on different dates over the last one month. The first shipment was sent from here on May 8.
The sources say Singapore used to be a major overseas market for vegetables exported from the Tiruchi airport during the pre-lockdown period when the consignments used to be sent in available belly space on board passenger flights.
The lockdown period also saw for the first time a dedicated cargo freighter having been operated by the SpiceJet from Tiruchi to Singapore to lift vegetables and fruits. Besides Singapore, about 3.2 tonnes of overseas cargo was lifted to Dubai by the Air India Express and 18.92 tonnes to Kuwait by Kuwait Airways.
Thehindu.com reports that during the pre-lockdown period, Tiruchi airport used to handle about 750 tonnes of export cargo on an average every month. The airport had exceeded the internal target set in respect of export cargo movement during the 2019-20 financial year.
The target set was about 7,500 tonnes with the airport surpassing it by clocking a little over 8,100 tonnes during the 2019-20 fiscal, the official said.