In a milestone development, an aircraft carrying perishable items arrived from Kabul at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport here, marking the launch of a dedicated air freight corridor between India and Afghanistan, an official said on Thursday.
The initiative was planned during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Afghanistan when he met Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani in September 2016.
The connectivity was subsequently implemented by Maharashtra Governor C.V. Rao and Afghanistan Vice President Danish Sarwar, providing the landlocked country (Afghanistan) greater access to markets in this state (Maharashtra).
"It will permit Afghan businessmen to leverage economic growth, enhance trade networks and offer their farmers direct connection to the markets in western India for their perishable goods," a CSMIA spokesperson said.
The flight, carrying 40 tonne fresh apples, arrived here on Wednesday from Kabul and returned on Thursday with a cargo of 20 tonne bananas and 20 tonne fresh tomatoes from Mumbai.
The current trade volume between the two countries stands at roughly $350 million with a goal to increase it to around $1 billion in the next three years.
While India exports man-made filaments, apparel and clothing accessories, pharmaceuticals, cereals, man-made staple fibres, dairy and poultry products, spices, Afghanistan sends fresh fruits, dried fruits and nuts, vegetables, oil seeds, precious and semi-precious stones among others.
Earlier, transportation of perishable goods by road was impractical due to logistical problems and increased costs as they passed through various states.
The newly-inaugurated Kabul-Mumbai air freight corridor resolves that problem and has received a tremendous response from traders in both countries.
With the likely increase in the frequency of cargo exchange in the coming months facilitated through the CSMIA, India-Afghanistan will strengthen their trade relations and become long-term business partners.