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Cargo traffic dips, Customs gets stick

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In a clear sign of the unresolved issues in cargo movement at the Trichy international airport eating into its revenue, the airport has registered a 5.2 per cent fall in the volume of consignments lifted during 2017-18 compared to the previous year. While exporters blame it on the uncaring attitude of the customs, the airport authorities attributed the dip to cancellation of services as well as rescheduling and change of aircraft.
Ever since Trichy airport started handling cargo during 2011, the terminal had been registering an upswing in the consignments every year. However, for the first time, the cargo lifted in the year goneby has witnessed a decrease to the tune of 300 tonnes over 2016-17. Airport authorities claimed that cargo volume had fallen due to the cancellation of the Bangkok-bound Thai Air Asia flight, an embargo by Malindo Air, rescheduling or change of aircraft type as well as payload restrictions.
However, exporters scoffed at these reasons saying Thai Air Asia never lifted cargo till it cancelled its flights. As for Malindo Air, it had not regularly lifted cargo since the launch of its flight in the last six years. Air Asia, Tiger Air and Sri Lankan airlines alone utilised their belly space in a dedicated manner, they said.

“This is a major setback. Customs and excise officials have been driving away exporters to other airports through their callous attitude which is why the cargo volume has fallen. The international courier cargo has not yet been launched despite the customs department securing the nod five years ago”, alleged V B Jaganath of Trichy Intra-City Development Endeavors (TIDES).
Export of perishables commodities like vegetables, fruits and flowers constituted 90 per cent of the total volume of consignments handled at the airport. Kuwait, Singapore, Dubai, Male, Kuala Lumpur and Colombo were the main destinations. The remaining 10 per cent comprised non-perishables like garments, leather, lobster, fish and puja articles, an exporter said.
“Customs authorities are willing to handle only perishables. It forces exporters to utilise other airports like Chennai or to ship the general cargo from Kochi. Plant quarantine certificate was also a great hindrance for consigning flower items. Tonnes of flowers were being lifted via Trichy airport from various parts of the state. However, as the customs authorities refused to accept PQ from anywhere other than Trichy, exportsrs think of other options”, he said.
Problems pertaining to EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) were sorted out during the initial days itself. Hence, a decrease in consignment was in no way related to the introduction of EDI, he opined. When contacted, joint commissioner of customs J Md Navfal was evasive to various allegations levelled against the cargo authorities.

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