Pakistan’s exports of fruits and vegetables via airlines have declined by at least 30 percent this year just because of lack of key cargo handling facilities and space by the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). The PIA flights not only lack required space for the already booked fruit shipments but also have very limited cargo handling equipments, which cause delay and cancellation of freight services abroad.
Showing its serious concerns over PIA’s inability to cope with the requirements of export of fresh agro produces, Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchant Association (PFVA) in a letter sent to PIA recently said that that the exporters were facing huge losses due to the lack of facilities by the national carrier.
“Our exporters are encountering problems in smooth export of fruits and vegetables which is of serious concern to them resulting in financial losses,” the letter added. The association while highlighting the fresh issues related to non-availability of pallets and containers (AEK) and off-loadings at PIA said these required to be addressed on priority basis.
It said, “Our exporters despite encountering certain problems prefer to export their shipments by the national carrier (PIA) which is certainly a reflection of great support they desire to render to the Airline and in turn expect the Airline to reciprocate in similar way. However, it’s not the case and it seems that it’s a one-way traffic.”
According to the letter, PIA being the only national carrier is expected to be well equipped to facilitate the exporters of fresh agro produce but it’s quite disappointing to share that the Airline does not have enough pallets and aircraft containers to handle the cargo leading to inordinate delays in promptly getting the cargo onboard. Due to non-availability of the equipments the export shipments are more than often are offloaded as well causing delays .
The shelf life and hence quality of the perishable stuff (Fruits & Vegetables) is highly dependent on time and temperature and with such prolonged delays, one can well imagine the suffering of exporters in terms of financial losses, it added. “You are requested to kindly ensure availability of pallets and aircraft containers to address this serious issue so that export of fruits/vegetables is not badly affected,” it added.
Besides the pallets, PIA is accepting export shipments for the European sector on confirmed basis from Karachi and more than often the shipments is off-loaded at Islamabad on one pretext or the other . The off loading of export shipment containing perishable stuff causes “delay” in transportation to the importing countries and that simply means reduction in shelf life and hence deterioration in the quality . The delay due to off loading besides financial losses to the exporters is also putting a big question mark on their credibility since they could not honour business commitment of meeting the time frame given by the buyers.
According to Waheed Ahmed, Co-Chairman PFVA, at least 30 percent decline in export of fruit and vegetable mainly mango has been recorded this year due to the cargo related issues. Out of the estimated 150000 tons of mango only 45000 tons have so far been exported via airlines with reduction of 30 percent. Despite having demand and potential buyers in the US market, no consignment could be sent to Washington as PIA has no direct connection with the foreign country. Availability of flights has also been one of the major issues related to cargo activities and exports.
Notwithstanding this, the PIA on its website claims: “PIA Cargo commenced operations in 1974, with flights to the USA, Europe, and Hong Kong on the B-707 aircraft. PIA Cargo has the unique distinction of introducing Pakistan’s fruits to international markets and pioneered the exports of fresh fruits and vegetables to global destinations. Operating as the air freight division of Pakistan’s national carrier, PIA Cargo has achieved rapid growth and reaches out to destinations spanning the globe through its passenger scheduled flights and freighter services.
PIA Cargo earns valuable revenue for Pakistan International Airlines and provides a massive boost to Pakistan’s wide spectrum of exports. The aggressive growth of PIA Cargo coupled with PIA’s rapidly expanding passenger operations empowers customers with a range of cutting-edge cargo products and services. In addition to offering cargo services, PIA Cargo also arranges charter flights to lift meat, livestock and relief goods within and outside Pakistan. PIA Cargo transports a range of commodities across Pakistan as well as a growing list of global destinations. Commodities that PIA Cargo ships lifts included edibles such as meat and vegetables to textiles, paper products, laboratory equipment, and even un-cremated human remains.”