September 11: Cargo materials were exported for the first time using Bhairahawa-based Gautam Buddha International Airport on July 27. Himalex Traders of Kathmandu had exported Nepali products through Rising Star Cargo Pvt. Ltd using the newly-built airport. The consignment of handicraft items was sent to France through a transit in Kuwait by Jazeera Airways. Since then, none other goods have been exported through the airport.
Export of goods from the airport has not increased due to lack of interest among the businessmen. Although the exporters are using the Tribhuvan International Airport to export Nepali goods abroad, hardly anyone is interested in Bhairahawa Airport.
Nepal Freight Forwarders Association’s President Manoj Adhikari says that the exporters have shown little interest in using Bhairahawa-based airport for export although it has all necessary infrastructure to export their products.
“We cannot expect businessmen from Kathmandu to use this airport to export goods. The private sector of this area should take initiative to export goods using this airport,” says Adhikari.
“We have to identify the local products and export them through this airport,” he added.
Rupandehi district is best knowngreen vegetables and fishery. Adhikari says that vegetables, medicinal herbs, coffee, noodles, and flour can be exported through this airport.
He argues that the stakeholders need to identify the products that have good potential for export and focus on production of those goods.
“NFFA is ready to facilitate the identification of the goods that have high potential for export,” says Adhikari.
The airport has a capacity to import/export up to 500 tons of goods per day for the time being. However, exporters of this area are also using Kathmandu-based Tribhuvan International Airport instead of this airport, says Adhikari.
Bhishma Neupane, chairman of Siddhartha Industry and Commerce Association, says that the industrialists are confused what should they export from this airport.
Neupane argues that the industrialists and businessmen are in dilemma because the airport has just come into operation. The businessmen say that there are still many legal hurdles to export goods from this airport. They say that the airport lacks cold storage to export green vegetables and also customs point for export.
However, chief of the Gautam Buddha International Airport Customs Office Tikaram Gaire says that the airport is fully prepared to handle export and import of goods. He says that there is no hurdle for foreign trade through this airport. The storage house in the airport will come into operation soon, says Gaire.
Only one airline company – Jazeera Airways – has been operating regular flights using this airport which came into operation on May 16 this year. The airline company has been conducting three flights a week between Bhairahawa and Kuwait.
The airport has announced various concessions to attract more airline companies.