M A I N   N E W S

Flight withdrawal to hit veggie exports
Neeraj Bagga
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 12
Export of perishable goods from Punjab and Himachal Pradesh to Europe would be hit hard if Air India sticks to its decision to withdraw the Amritsar-London-Toronto flight from next month, say export houses. The Air India website is already advising passengers, who are trying to book seats in October/November, to catch the Delhi-London-Toronto flight from there.

The Perishable Cargo Centre at the Rajasansi International Airport has been handling the export of baby corns, snow peas, sugar snap, okra and other vegetables to London since July, 2006. While it is faster, cheaper and easier to transport fresh vegetables from Himachal Pradesh and Ludhiana to Amritsar, it would take longer and be more expensive to shift the cargo to Delhi, they claimed. Countries like Thailand, Kenya and Guatemala would gain at India’s cost, said Alok Dubey of Field Fresh Food Private Limited.

Both Dubey and Sahib Singh of ‘Namdhari Farm Fresh Private Limited’ point out that it would take eight hours or more, compared to three hours now, to carry the cargo by road to Delhi, where the trucks would have to cope with traffic snarls and where they cannot enter during the day.

The adverse foreign exchange rate, said Dubey, had already affected vegetable exporters in the region. The withdrawal of the flight would now make it impossible for them to compete in the international market, he added. While over 1 lakh kg of fresh vegetables were exported in the year 2006-07, the next year saw the volume go up to 2.78 lakh kg. It was the Jet Airways which used to operate the flight those days but once the private airlines pulled out due to recession, Air India quickly filled the breach.

The volume of vegetable export continued to grow since 2008 and in the last two years, 6.23 lakh kg and 9.08 lakh kg have been exported from Rajasansi airport.

The Council for Value Added Agriculture, Punjab, which runs the Perishable Cargo Centre, is worried because most of the perishable vegetables are exported in winter and officials are baffled at Air India’s decision to withdraw the flight. The export has been hit already by flooding in parts of Punjab in recent weeks.

The AI had pressed a Boeing 777 on this route with a perishable cargo capacity of 24 tonnes and an almost equal capacity for the non-perishable cargo.





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |