Overseas air cargo movements exceeds target ahead of lockdown

The Tiruchi international airport, one of non metro airports in the country, has surpassed the target set for overseas cargo handling during the 2019-20 financial year even before the nation-wide lockdown and cancellation of international flights in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The international air cargo terminal at Tiruchi handled over 7,900 metric tonnes of overseas freight by February itself thereby exceeding the target of 7,500 metric tonnes set for 2019-20 financial year, a senior Airports Authority of India official said.

On an average, the Tiruchi international air cargo terminal used to handle more than 550 metric tonnes overseas cargo every month during the 2019-20 fiscal. There have been occasions when the figure exceeded 700 and 800 metric tonnes in certain months during 2019-20, according to Airports Authority of India statistics.

Perishables such as vegetables, fruits and flowers continue to account for ninety-nine per cent of the consignments lifted from Tiruchi airport which is surrounded by agrarian districts.

In the absence of any freight service, cargo is being booked in international passenger flights that were being operated to select foreign destinations in South Asia, South East Asia and West Asia from here. Singapore is a big market for the exporters from here as bulk of vegetables used to be shipped to that country, say export circles here.

Amid uncertainty looming over resumption of international flights due to the current COVID-19 spread, exporters here say even if overseas flights were to resume from mid –April onwards it would still take a couple of months to get back to normal situation.

Predictions could not be made about air cargo exports given the current crisis situation across the globe in the wake of the spread of the viral disease world-wide. “There is a greater possibility of

reduction in the movement of international cargo movement at least in the first quarter of the 2020-21. As things stands now, it would take time up to August for air cargo export business to get

back to the pre-lockdown period, says S.A. Sayeed, president, Express Courier Operators Association, Tiruchi.