The Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) deputy head has said Afghan traders exporting fruits to India were charged heavy taxes at Indian airports.
Khan Jan Alokozai told Pajhwok Afghan News in an interview that some 460 metric tonnes of dried and fresh fruits worth $7 million had so far been exported to India since the launch of the Afghanistan-India air freight corridor a few months back, Pajhwok news agency reported. Six flights carrying 360 tonnes of fresh fruits (apricots, melons and grapes) and 100 tonnes of dried fruits and medicinal herbs were flown to India from Kabul and Kandahar province, he said.
Alokozai said the air corridor provided flight facilities to Kabul and Kandahar only but would be extended to other provinces later. According to him, fresh fruits and herbal plants that were carried in flights from Kabul to India had been collected from several central zone provinces – Parwan, Kapisa, Logar, Wardak and Ghazni. “The reason behind one flight from Kandahar was some technical problems in initial days of the air corridor,” he explained.
“The fruit transfer and transit agreement through the air corridor reached between Ariana Afghan Airlines (AAA) and some other foreign airlines; however, both the airlines didn’t honor their commitment and were unable to prepare the cargo aircraft in time. Hence, the agreement with AAA was terminated and instead Kam Air Airlines was contracted that resolved the issue.” Alokozay said the newly readied cargo aircraft flew twice a week to India and had the capacity of carrying 100 tonnes of goods.
He cited the use of refrigerated containers for export of fruits via Pakistan’s Wagah port to India another reason behind the delayed flights from Kandahar through the air corridor. From 2,000 to 2,500 of tonnes of fruits were being exported via Torkham and Spin Boldak ports throughout Pakistani territory to India on a daily basis, Alokozai said. He said flights carrying pomegranates from Kandahar to India would be restarted after the fruit’s harvest.
The ACCI deputy head also acknowledged some issues in exports through the Afghan-Indo Air Corridor, saying besides the air fare, an enormous amount of taxes was taken from Afghan traders at Indian airports. Alokozay said he had shared the issue with the Presidential Palace and the authorities concerned; however, the issue remained unresolved. Due to the high taxation, Afghanistan’s fruits prices went up, rendering Afghan products unable to compete with other countries’ fruit markets in India, he added. Mir Zaman Popal, head of Afghanistan exports development at ACCI, also confirmed problems in fruits exports through the Afghanistan-India Air Corridor, but said efforts were underway for their solution.
He said dried fruits being exported to India needed special tests and certificates, something that should be made available. Popal said efforts were underway for solution of the mentioned problems and any type of dried fruits would have special certificate in future. Popal said cargo flights to India would resume from next Friday and the first flight would export 25 tons of fresh fruits and 15 tons dried fruits.
Kandahar residents say they are happy about resumption of cargo flights, but they have some concerns as well. A dried fruit trader, Jalal Rahman Sharar, said: “Unfortunately the first cargo flights began when it was not the time of fruits harvests, and the second series of flights is also being started when grapes collection season is almost over.”
He called the delay in cargo flights injustice to Kandahar traders who suffered huge losses. Traders purchased huge amount of apricots from gardeners when cargo flights first started to India, but later they were obliged to dry fruits they had purchased and wanted to export, he added. Sharar said traders were still worried they would again face delay in cargo flights and would suffer losses. He asked ACCI officials to closely watch resumption of cargo flights to India and address problems if occurred during that process.
A number of other traders in Kandahar said they wanted the development of the Afghanistan-India Air Corridor, which they called painless and cost effective. Land export of fruits take six days to reach India and a kilogram costs 60 cents while air export of fruits take only few hours and a kilogram costs 20 cents.
On June 19, President Ashraf Ghani formally inaugurated the Afghanistan-India Air Corridor in capital Kabul. The aim of the air corridor is to develop commerce and economy and remove transit barriers between Afghanistan and India. The first cargo plane exported 60 tons of products from Kabul to India. The second cargo plane loaded with 40 tons of dried fruit flew from Kandahar to India on June 14.