The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh has allocated a separate scanner for fruits and vegetables at the Dhaka airport following calls from exporters, many of whom were failing to make their shipments due to delays in screening since March 21.
From Monday, one of the four screening machines at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport is being used solely for fresh produce, according to Mohammed Mansur, general secretary of Bangladesh Fruits, Vegetables and Allied Products Exporters' Association.
“The situation at the airport has improved a bit after the allocation of a separate machine for us,” he said.
Following a security alert on March 8, direct cargo from Dhaka to the UK was banned, which prompted the airport authority to crank up the screening procedure.
As a result, the exporters are now facing long delays in screening and on many occasions, the consignments are failing to make their flights on time.
The delays are weighing heavily on the fruit and vegetable exporters, who have to bring back their perishable cargo from the airport after missing flights and sell them at throwaway prices at the city's wholesale kitchen markets. This prompted the vegetable exporters last week to place a demand for a dedicated scanner at the airport with the secretaries of the commerce and civil aviation ministries.
“Considering that vegetables are perishable goods and needs for quick shipment, we have allocated a separate screening machine for the item,” said Rashed Khan Menon, civil aviation and tourism minister.
Everyday, more than 100 tonnes of fruits and vegetable are shipped by air, according to Mansur.
Exporters of other items are still suffering from long delays at screening and are sitting on a huge backlog as a result.
Nearly 1,000 tonnes of goods arrive at the Dhaka airport for shipment but 200 tonnes to 300 tonnes fail to make their flights, said Mahbubul Anam, president of Bangladesh Freight Forwarders' Association.
Due to the scarcity of scanners, the dry cargo exporters have to face four to five days' delay in screening, according to Anam.
“If the situation continues this way, there is a chance of losing work orders in future, especially from international garment retailers.”
From April 17, a brand new screening machine will be installed at the airport, but Anam said at least five scanners need to be installed immediately if the situation is to improve at all.