Country's export growth of perishable items has faced a fresh jolt after the enhanced air cargo charges of Biman Bangladesh Airlines became effective from March 16.
Besides, space crisis in the Biman's aircraft and frequent fare revision by the foreign air cargo operators are also hindering the growth of vegetables export.
As per Biman's latest fare chart, exporters have to pay an additional Tk 12,000 per tonne for ferrying goods to European destinations and Tk 7,000 to the Middle Eastern countries, according to Bangladesh Fruits Vegetables and Allied Products Exporters Association (BFVAPEA) sources.
They said that export has become costly as soon as the new air freight charges were introduced and local products are losing their competitiveness in the international markets.
"Vegetable export from Kolkata has started recently and their volume of export is increasing tremendously due to government support, especially in terms of subsidised cargo fare and allowing adequate air cargo space", SM Jahangir Hussain, president of the BFVAPEA said on Friday.
Biman sources said that the authority reviewed its fare in November due to price hike of jet fuel in the international market. Biman also increased air cargo charges by 10 per cent in March in 2005.
The national flag-carrier is now ferrying about 420 tonnes of vegetables per week. It carries around 70 per cent of fresh vegetables while the remaining is ferried by other foreign and local operators.
Biman now has fixed its cargo fare on vegetable items at US$ 1.60 per kg while it charges at $ 2.58 per kg on dry foods, sources said.
Officials also admitted that they raised cargo fare by 15 per cent on an average mainly to different Middle Eastern and European destinations.
SM Musaddeque Hussain, general manager of cargo department of the Bangladesh Biman told the FE that space crisis is one of the bottlenecks, which is hampering the export growth of the fresh vegetables.
He, however, claimed that Biman's fare is still more competitive than other international carriers.
Hussain also said that they are providing spaces to the vegetable exporters despite the fact the national carrier has no exclusive cargo planes.
"We try to accommodate those in passenger flights and if the number of passengers raises, the amount of cargoes drops and vice versa", he added.
He admitted that the exporters suffer when Biman fails to accommodate fresh vegetables due to the increased number of passengers.
Farid Uddin Ahmed, a front-ranking leader of the BFVAPEA claimed that they have failed to get an appointment with Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mirza Fakhrul Alamgir after repeated attempts to discuss these problems.