Saffron opens up new Kabul-Jeddah cargo route

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A new airfreight route between Kabul and Jeddah was launched on Monday June 25, private sector sources in the Afghan capital have told Air Cargo Week.

Officials at Afghanistan’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the flights had started but declined to confirm details appearing in local news agencies.

The Tolo news agency reported the first flight, which was shown on the Tolo TV channel, transported 500 kg of saffron to Saudi Arabia.

The flight is part of a much under-reported emerging trade, landlocked Afghanistan using air freight and air corridors or AFGs to boost its trade figures. Giving this a twist neighbouring Pakistan sometimes closes its border at short notice – further disrupting the overland routes.

“Afghanistan has earned $51 million since June last year, when the first air freight route was launched between Kabul and Delhi,” Tolo reported. “Since then, exports, air freighted out of the country, have increased considerably, officials said.”

Last year saw two air corridors between Afghanistan and India. These were followed by another to Kazakhstan and then to Turkey, with Saudi being the fifth route.  More are planned.

“We are supposed to finalise another memorandum of understanding with the UAE, which is to do with the first cargo flight to Dubai. In the meantime, we are in the final stages of signing a memorandum of understanding with European Union,” Sameer Rasa, the Head of the Public Relations Office of the Senior Advisor to the President in Banking and Finance told Tolo.

Over 100 cargo flights have left Afghanistan in the past year, Rasa’s office said. In total, 2,600 tonnes of dry and fresh fruits, medicinal plants and carpets were exported to India, Kazakhstan and Turkey.

Tolo also reported Rasa as saying around 15 tonnes of goods will be transported to Turkey during the first flight.