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Family Aid 2020
   Vol. 22 No. 30
Monday September 11, 2023

Cargo Pioneers Again In Assam

Simon Wang and Himanta Biswa Sarma

     Assam, India is a place many Americans may never forget in the northeast of India, well-known the world over for its service during World War II as the men and material staging area for The Flying Tigers American AVG Group serving in Kunming, China.
     It was Assam that came to the rescue after the Japanese closed the Burma Road leaving Legions of C-46s (made in Buffalo, New York) double bubble, early pressurized cargo aircraft based at Kunming no option but to create a great pioneering air cargo airlift carry men and av-gas and other air cargo war time supplies above the treacherous Himalaya Mountains from Assam to Kunming.
     These days, probably fair to say that, Kunming is better known for growing tea.
     But half a decade before it saved Berlin, air cargo became world famous as war raged when Flying Tigers transport pilots kept the supplies line open when nothing else could.
     So a place where they were still discovering wrecked C46s, 70 years later, recently took another air cargo giant leap forward when it began shipping fresh produce to Singapore. An elated Singapore’s High Commissioner to India, Simon Wong, announced the successful completion of the inaugural air cargo shipment of fruits from Assam on social media platform, ‘X’:
     “I am happy to announce the first air cargo shipment of fruits from Assam to Singapore. This will establish a direct agro-export source from the NE to Singapore.”
     That shipment has created a direct connect from India’s northeastern region to Singapore. The state’s Chief Minister’s office reciprocated Wong’s announcement by stating that a variety of fruits from Assam had made their way to Singapore.
     Among the produce were pineapples (Assam is the second-largest producer in India), lemons, plums, jackfruits and starfruits that made use of the recently-established air cargo route that was aimed at enhancing agricultural exports. Incidentally, even before the Singapore shipment, Assam had exported its pineapples to Dubai in 2019.
     An equally important associated development took place that day when India and Singapore started live paperless transaction. Using the Trade Trust platform, the move ushered in digital connectivity boosting the efforts of both the countries to use technology to transform trade practices. As Wong tweeted, “Following the India-Singapore Ministerial Roundtable & the meeting with PM Modi, we have piloted the first live paperless transaction using the Trade Trust platform.      Another milestone in digital connects between Singapore & India - HC Wong.”
     Way back in October 2017, the first consignment of fresh fruits from another northeastern state (there are eight north-eastern states: Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Meghalaya), Tripura, was sent out to Dubai from Delhi international airport. At that time, exports of fresh produce from the northeastern states were restricted to Bangladesh and Myanmar. The credit for starting agricultural exports from northeast in other international markets goes to Delhi International Airport, which initiated a study in 2016. The study had found out that fresh produce from the northeast could not only get buyers in Europe and U.S. but also gain a major foothold in domestic markets. India, for example, produces 9,000 MT of kiwis and imports 12,940 MT from Italy, New Zealand, Chile, Greece and France. However, the northeast produces around 7,000 MT but air connectivity and storage problems hampered exports.
     In fact, a large portion of the kiwis were wasted. With this move to Singapore, producers from the northeast will be able to supply international markets.
     The northeastern states share international boundaries with Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh and China. This makes the region a potential center for the export of agricultural produce to not only the neighboring countries, but to destinations like Singapore, Dubai in the Middle East, London in the UK and Europe.
     Perishable exports from Assam have seen a growth of 85.34 % in the last six years: surging from USD$2.52 million in 2016-17 to USD$17.2 million in 2021-22.
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