Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thai Airways to begin weekly cargo flights to Germany for Thai farm products

NAREERAT WIRIYAPONG

Thai Airways International next month will begin weekly cargo flights to Germany to support sales of Thai farm products in the European market by cutting the producers' logistics costs.

The aircraft will land at Frankfurt Hahn Airport, which is considered a good central point for distributing Thai fruits and vegetables to other European destinations such as France, England and the Benelux countries.

''There are 3,000 to 4,000 Thai restaurants in Europe and all of them have high demand of vegetables and fruits,'' said Chaisawat Kittipornpaibul, the permanent secretary of the Transport Ministry and the THAI board chairman.

''From the low-cost Frankfurt Hahn Airport, there are good logistics networks on road and rail linking with other major European cities.''

At present, vegetables and fruits destined for European markets are carried on passenger flights to Frankfurt and Munich with a combined capacity of 50 tonnes a day, said Vorapravat Suebsaeng, managing director of Thai Airways' cargo and mail department.

The national carrier stopped its cargo flights to France in February because of high operating costs. The three-time weekly services had a combined capacity of 1,200 tonnes of goods per week.

But with a memorandum of understanding signed yesterday for strategic partnership between THAI, its Thai counterparts and the state government of Rhineland Palatinate, where the airport is located, the air cargo service from Thailand to Europe is expected to be more profitable.

The allies under the agreement, including the Thai Airfreight Forwarders Association and the Association of Thai Tour Operators, will co-operate to gather products for THAI to carry for both inbound and outbound flights.

''The government would also have to promote imports of goods from Germany not only for Thailand but also as the gateway to other markets such as Australia, Singapore and Taiwan,'' Mr Voraprawat said.

Saowanee Boonpiom, president of the Thai Fruit and Vegetable Exporters Association, said the cargo flights to Germany would start by mid-August onward for exports of short-life Thai fruits and vegetables to Europe, now valued about 10 billion baht a year.

Thai fruits, especially durian, rambutan, longan, and mangosteen, are in high demand in Europe but Thai exporters have limited access to the market because of limited cargo capacity of passenger aircraft. ''With the Thai Airways freighter, we will have larger capacity for export, especially for durian which is prohibited on passenger flights due to its strong smell,'' she said.

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