Cargo centre at amritsar airport on hold

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Old 24-Jun-2011
Cargo centre at amritsar airport on hold

Amritsar June 24:

Work on setting up a state-of-the-art permanent perishable cargo centre at Sri Guru Ramdas Ji International Airport (SGRJIA) has come to standstill, following the directions of officials of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) to the concerned departments of the Punjab government to re-consider the decision.

Director SGRJIA Sunil Dutt reasoned that the temporary cargo centre was under-utilised and came nowhere near its export capacity of 80 tonnes of fresh produce everyday. Its daily average export was not more than four tonnes. After the withdrawal of Air India’s Amritsar-London-Toronto flight, it did not export even a kilogram of fresh produce. Therefore, it would be wastage of public space and money to invest in augmenting facilities, in these circumstances, he added.

He said the Council for Value Added Horticulture (CVAH), which is handling the existing perishable centre, had not paid its share of salary to Customs officials for the period between April 1, 2006 and December 31, 2010. The CVAH is to pay an outstanding sum of Rs 50 lakh. According to him, the Centre must utilise the existing facilities to an optimum level and once the export increases it could go ahead with setting up a permanent complex.

On the other hand, the Punjab Agri-Export Corporation (PAEC) General Manager, Pardeep Sharma said they would go ahead with setting up a permanent centre at Amritsar Airport. He said the discontinuation of a flight was a temporary phase and more flights could re-connect the export destination of London with Amritsar in near future. He said once the infrastructure was available, more exporters would approach them and new exporting destinations could be opened.

He said time management was of prime concern in perishable cargo export and state-of-the-art permanent cargo complex would transform the manual system into an automatic, digital system. The state government had entrusted the task for setting up a permanent cargo centre to the PAEC. It received a grant of Rs 18.25 crore from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Department of Agriculture and Cooperation under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana to set up a permanent perishable centre in October last.

The permanent centre was to provide an impetus to export of fresh vegetables and fruits from northwest India as it would have the capacity of handling 200 tonne cargo per day. The Temporary Cargo Centre, which started functioning in July 2006, was built with an investment of Rs two crore. Spread over an area of 6,500 square metres its entire operations are being handled manually. As per understanding between the AAI and the state government, the former was to hand over 10,010 square meters of land to the CVAH to establish the new perishable cargo on a token amount of Re one per year for a period of seven years.

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