‘SriLankan Airlines marginalizing local exporters of fruits and vegetables to Maldives’

Amalgamated International complains to the President


A key exporter of fresh fruits and vegetables to Gan Island in the Maldives has complained to President Maithripala Sirisena about the step-motherly treatment meted out to Sri Lankan exporters in the business by SriLankan Airlines.

Amalgamated International (Pvt) Ltd., has sought the President’s intervention to direct SriLankan Airlines to accord first priority to every cargo booking made by Sri Lankan exporters of fresh fruits and vegetables to Gan Island, and cargo originating from other destinations be uplifted if and only when space is available after confirming Sri Lankan exporters’ cargo requirements, and not the other way around.

Gan Island has a resident population of around 50,000. As the island has no production of upcountry vegetables, as grown in Sri Lanka (it does produce some low country vegetables as done here) and fruits, a few Lankan exporters found a small, but growing market in the Gan Island for the produce. Any new market starts small, and with the growth of the population and increasing tourist arrivals, it becomes substantial in the medium to long term, the letter outlined.

The operation of direct flights from Colombo to Gan Island hugely facilitated the exports of fresh fruits and vegetables without the hassle of off loading the produce, perishable in nature and also avoiding attendant losses to the exporters as a result of claims by the importers for damages and spoilages, it explained.

However, prior to the operation of direct flights to the Gan Island, Amalgamated International exported small quantities of the produce via Male to Gan Island using transshipment carriage by Maldivian Airlines from Male, it said.

The service through Male was not punctual and the aircraft used for this sector was so small that most of the time the cargo was delayed in Male for many days resulting in spoilage and damage claims, the letter noted.

SriLankan Airlines operating direct flights to Gan Island from Colombo (currently three frequencies per week) came as a blessing to the Sri Lankan exporters to the destination, with hardly any claims for damages and spoilages as the cargo reached the destination directly and in the shortest time frame, the letter to the President further said.

Although the flight operated to Gan Island is an A320 (the smallest of the aircraft in the SriLankan Airlines fleet), with a cargo capacity of approx. two to three tons per flight (subject to the passenger load and baggage space), a quantity of six to nine tons per week was more than sufficient for Sri Lankan exporters to send their produce without any off loadings and resultant claims for damages and spoilages, it added.

However, commencing on or about December 2018, Sri Lankan Airlines, in spite of limitation of cargo capacity in their flights to the destination, has started carrying transshipment cargo from other destinations, who in fact, are the competitors of Sri Lankan exporters. In the process, cargo of Sri Lankan exporters is off loaded as priority is given to transshipment cargo over the cargo originating from Sri Lanka, Amalgamated International complained.

As a result of SriLankan Airlines giving priority to cargo originating from other destinations, importers are gradually losing confidence in Sri Lankan exports and are increasing their orders from our competitors, it pointed out.

The loss of confidence amongst Sri Lankan exporters will finally result in the total loss of orders to this destination, where the market that was created by the Sri Lankan exporters is being stymied by SriLankan Airlines by facilitating the exports of fresh fruits and vegetables of competitors from other destinations, it further noted.

Fresh fruits and vegetables exported to Gan Island are sourced from rural farmers in Sri Lanka, which contribute towards the development of the rural economy, apart from earning foreign exchange for the country and providing employment. This is, therefore, not only a national issue but also a livelihood issue for a segment of Sri Lankans, the letter to the President added.

A copy of Amalgamated International’s letter to the President was emailed to SriLankan Airlines for comment on Tuesday. Though a response was assured, it didn’t come through, despite many reminders over the week.

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