A year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani discussed the possibility of opening a dedicated freight corridor between the two countries, the first cargo flight, containing perishable goods, reached Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport from Kabul on Wednesday.
The dedicated cargo corridor will provide Afghanistan greater access to markets in Maharashtra. In September 2016, during his visit to Kabul, Modi had discussed opening an air freight corridor. The air corridor is expected to provide businessmen in Afghanistan a direct link to trade, and for farmers in the land-locked country to directly access markets in Maharashtra.
On Wednesday, Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao and the consulate general of Afghanistan along with senior diplomats welcomed the first cargo carrier that carried 20 tonnes of apples to Mumbai. The outbound flight was loaded with 20 tonnes of bananas and 20 tonnes of tomatoes.
Currently, the estimated trade between India and Afghanistan stands at $350 million (Rs 2,241 crore) annually, while the government aims to escalate it to at least a billion dollar in next three years, according to officials from the GVK Mumbai International Airport Ltd. “Earlier, transporting cargo by road, comprising mostly perishable goods, was impractical since it not only faced logistical problems but also added to the cost of the goods while they passed through various states,” an official said.
The air freight corridor is part of long term bilateral ties between the two countries.