KABUL: An aircraft packed with 60 tonnes of Afghan plants with medicinal uses marked the opening of the first air cargo corridor between Afghanistan and India on Monday.
The cargo, worth about $5 million dollars, was the first in what officials from the two countries hope will be many flights allowing Afghan and Indian companies to bypass Pakistan.
“Our aim is to change Afghanistan to an exporter country,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said at a ceremony marking the inaugural flight. “As long as we are not an exporter country, then poverty and instability will not be eliminated.”
The cargo service aims to improve landlocked Afghanistan’s links to markets abroad and boost the growth prospects of its agricultural and carpet industries while it battles a deadly Taliban insurgency, Indian officials have said.
“We will continue to assist you in various ways as this corridor expands and grows into a network of cargo flights as per demand of the market,” India’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Manpreet Vohra, told Ghani.
“There are bound to be some teething problems in any major initiatives such as this but my embassy and my government is committed to working together with your team to resolve all issues that may pop up from time to time.”
Next week, a second flight to India is scheduled to depart from the southern city of Kandahar, carrying 40 tonnes of dried fruit.
The Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) said the medicinal plants carried on the first flight were valued at $11 million. ACCI officials said the cost of transporting a kilogramme of vegetables and fresh fruit from Kabul and Kandahar to Indian markets will be about 20 cents per kg, and the cost of a kilogramme of goods from India to Afghanistan will be about 40 cents.
Published in Daily Times, June 20th, 2017.