International Air Cargo Facility at Srinagar Airport

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URGENTLY NEEDED
INTERNATIONAL AIR CARGO FACILITY AT SRINAGAR AIRPORT 
Sheikh Sameer
In international trade, two factors are supreme. Quality and time. Any lack on either of these fronts makes manufacturers and traders lose out to stiff global competition.
Globally, Brand Kashmir is identified with high quality. If we talk of edible products, Brand Kashmir carries imprinted double coding: High Quality, Great Taste.
On the strength of quality and taste, the produce from Kashmir can beat the produce grown anywhere. Ditto for our handicrafts. Incomparable workmanship and intricacy of craft are the hallmark of Kashmir.
TIMELY DELIVERY A MAJOR FACTOR 
Unfortunately, products which are much inferior to our products get a bigger market globally because of the second major factor in international trade – time. Our products are not able to reach world markets because Kashmir lacks strong Dry Port facilities.
While international air cargo facility from Srinagar airport has been announced by the Airport Authority of India, it has not been made operational till now. International air cargo facility shall significantly boost the entire economy of Kashmir – horticulturists, manufacturers, traders, artisans, weavers and more. It shall benefit lakhs of families across Kashmir that are engaged in high-quality horticulture and the production of supremely crafted artifacts.
Sheikh Ashiq, President of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said that the valley’s export-oriented industry has suffered immensely due to lack of dry port infrastructure. “All our products carry additional freight tariff for international transport, because first they have to be carried to Delhi for international cargo. This makes the cost escalate and our products become expensive in the global market.
During winter, at times the highway gets closed for days. Buyers lose confidence that products from Kashmir do not reach on time. Business gets diverted to China, Iran or the smaller Asian countries. Due to these challenges, our entire economy suffers.” Sheikh Ashiq is a major exporter from Kashmir. He is on the Board of Directors of Carpet Export Promotion Council set up by the Ministry of Textiles, GOI, and represents Kashmir on this august body.
A prime demand for Kashmir is that international air cargo facility should be made operational on urgent basis. There is a famous saying. Everything else can wait but not agriculture. “No area can match the flavour of the fruits from Kashmir. All horticultural produce is highly perishable and needs immediate access to global markets. We don’t have direct international air cargo currently. The facility has been announced but it is not operational as yet. The government must consider the criticality of the requirement and make international air cargo operational for Srinagar on urgent basis,” added Ashiq. “In the interest of the tourism sector and also the manufacturing, horticulture and handicrafts sector, Srinagar-Sharjah flights must be resumed immediately. Plus direct flights between Srinagar-Jeddah must be started.”
NEW OPPORTUNITIES, NEW MARKETS 
The horticulturists point out that if air cargo facility is available, the fruit from Kashmir can reach the Gulf and even Europe within a few hours. When this happens, the producers will get the best prices. They will get new opportunities and new markets. They will be encouraged to aim for even higher quality.
International air cargo facility is a win-win for all and must be made operational soon.
The disruption caused by the annulment of Article 370 hit the Kashmir economy hard. Just when the economy was hoping to recover, the pandemic dealt a severe blow to national and global trade and tourism.
Export from Kashmir registered the peak of Rs 1700 crore in 2013-14. This dropped to Rs 600 crore in 2021-22. Provision of international air cargo facility and strengthening of Dry Port infrastructure shall significantly boost Kashmir’s economy, and be the life-saver for our horticulture sector and our handicrafts.

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