Bangladeshi exporters have welcomed the United Kingdom’s decision to lift the ban on direct cargo flights from Dhaka to London on Sunday.
However, many have expressed doubts about the usefulness of the move since the ban remains in place on Bangladesh Biman, the national flag carrier.
The United Kingdom on March 8, 2016 banned direct cargo flights from Dhaka to London after Biman failed to pass required safety and security tests.
The ban on Bangladesh Biman will still directly affect exporters of perishable goods, who rely on cheaper rates provided by the national carrier.
Bangladesh Fruits Vegetables and Allied Products Exporters’ Association Secretary General Mohammad Monsur told the Dhaka Tribune that the UK is huge market for them.
“The withdrawal of the ban will not benefit us much because in our business, time is everything. Without the national carrier, sending perishable goods to the UK becomes very expensive.
“Biman is more economical and the direct flights to the UK saves us time, both are crucial factors in our sector,” he said.
“The lifting of the ban is a good sign but it just makes everything more expensive without having Biman as a cargo option,” he added.
The lifting of the ban also means that the RMG sector, our biggest exporters are once again able to directly send and receive samples within a day.
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Faruque Hassan, Senior Vice-President of BGMEA, said: “The lifting of the ban is definitely a good thing because now the exporters will not have to pay for scanning in a third country which took two to three days.”
He echoed Mohammad Monsur’s point about lifting the ban on Biman, saying: “To enjoy the full benefits of the ban being lifted, the UK should also withdraw their ban on direct cargo flights by Biman.”
Exporters are hopeful that the lifting of the ban by the UK will encourage Australia and Germany to lift similar bans.
Last year, following the UK’s lead, Australia and Germany imposed a ban on direct cargo flights from Bangladesh. While, the European Union (EU) has put Bangladesh on the list of high-risk countries for security concerns.
“As a leader of exporters, I think, this is a good decision that will benefit exporters in Bangladesh. But, the decision should also include Biman,” said Exporter Association of Bangladesh president Abdus Salam Murshedy to the Dhaka Tribune.
“The UK’s decision to lift the ban on direct cargo flights will also help Bangladesh’s image to other countries that have slapped us with similar bans of their own,” he added.
“Bangladesh government should take necessary steps to acquire the certificates necessary for Biman to start operating direct cargo flights to the UK,” he further added.
During a press briefing on Sunday, Managing Director of Biman AM Mosaddique Ahmed said that any airline would be able to carry direct cargo from Dhaka to London, expect for Biman but that ban will be reversed when Biman acquires “an air cargo or main carrier operating into the union from a third country airport” (ACC3) certificate.
According to Export Promotion Bureau data, in FY2016-17 Bangladesh exports to the UK was worth $3.57 billion, which declined due to the ban on direct cargo to the country. In FY2015-16, Bangladesh earned $3.80 billion from the UK through exports.