Freight volumes surge on horticulture green shoots – cargo firm

Freight volumes surge on horticulture green shoots – cargo firm

By Bernard Mpofu, HARARE, February 25 (The Source) – Cargo handling firm Aviation Ground Services (AGS) says volumes for the full year to 2014 were up 104 percent compared to prior year driven by horticulture exports and positive rating by the European Union, managing director Caleb Mudyawabikwa said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the official opening of the company’s $300,000 warehouse at the Harare International Airport, Mudyawabikwa said a rebound in the horticulture sector following the government’s land reforms, which forced most of the white-owned, large-scale mechanised farms out of operation at the turn of the century, has seen flowers and fresh produce accounting for the bulk of goods handled by the company.

“Even though some international carriers pulled out of Harare due to some depressed cargo passenger volumes, we are flying the flag high,” Mudyawabikwa said.

“Export cargo has grown by five percent. If you look at 2012, we handled nine million kg, 2013 we handled 9,8 million kg, 2014 we handled 20 million kg. Out of this 60 percent are flowers, 30 percent of that is fresh produce and 10 percent is general cargo. What this means is that something is happening on the farms, which is a good sign.”

AGS says it handles 90 percent of all the cargo business going through the Harare International Airport and its figures suggest flower exports of around 12 million kg and 6 million kg of fresh produce.

Flower exports reached a peak of 22,8 million kg in 2002, while fresh produce peaked at 14,2 million kg in 1999, according to statistics by the Horticultural Promotion Council of Zimbabwe (HPC), a non-governmental national industry co-ordination body.

At its earning peak in 1999, horticulture earned Zimbabwe $143 million.

Mudyawabikwa said AGS had received a ratings boost from regional and international agencies, a development he said would drive volumes handled.

“AGS security systems where audited and validated by the European Union in February 2015 and were found complying with EU security requirements. The validation is a seal of approval for our exports which are mainly horticulture produce to enter the European market. The EU validation is going to open doors for business re-engagement with the European Union,” he said.

Mudyawabikwa also appealed to government to grant the company a licence to carry out passenger handling services saying the development would increase competition in the aviation sector. State owned National Handling Services is currently carrying out the mandate.

Speaking at the event, transport and infrastructural development minister Obert Mpofu said his ministry would soon introduce urban tolling to boost sagging revenues and upgrade the country’s run down infrastructure.