Dar es Salaam. Cargo tonnage handled through airports managed by the Tanzania Airports Authority (TAA) decreased by 4.5 per cent in 2018 compared to the year before, a new report shows.
The airports handled 19,467 tonnes of cargo in 2018 from 20,389 tonnes in 2017, TAA has reported, attributing the fall to improvement in other means of transportation, particularly marine transport.
But aviation expert and trainer Juma Fimbo linked the decrease to the lack of serious investment in cargo business locally.
“Local cargo business has never been our priority. This is a challenge that we need to tackle,” he said.
He urged airlines to deploy aircraft with large cargo carrying capacity to raise the business.
In a positive note, however, the number of passengers, passing through airports managed by TAA, jumped by 2.8 per cent to 3.473 million in 2018 compared to the preceding year.
The growth was significantly triggered by the government’s continuous efforts to create an enabling environment for the growth of the aviation industry, including promotion of tourism and investment.
Mr Fimbo said Tanzania needs to respond to market demands by tapping into the opportunities wherever they emerge.
“For instance, a large share of passengers travelling to Dubai, China and India are businessmen…We are operating in an environment where cargo generates passengers, so if airlines don’t increase cargo carrying capacity, they will end up losing travellers,” he cautioned.
Swissport Tanzania chief executive officer Mrisho Yassin echoed the TAA’s report, saying improvement in other means of transport ate into the portion of the cargo carried by air transport.
He was of the view that cargo volume should be driven largely by exports and not imports as it was at present.
“Importation doesn’t add a lot to a country. We need to push for more export so that we can have more foreign currency coming in,” said Mr Yassin.
Going by the TAA report, international cargo accounted for 87 per cent of tonnage carried in 2018, with the rest being carried domestically.
The report shows that domestic cargo volume grew by 14.6 per cent while international cargo tonnage fell by 6.8 per cent.
Mr Yassin called for more investment in the growing of perishable agricultural products like horticultural ones if the volume for cargo via air transport was to be uplifted.
“Already avocado farmers are enjoying support from Sagcot [the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania]. Production is going up and this is commendable,” said the Swissport Tanzania boss.
He suggested for continuous support to investors who were investing in areas which supported production of perishable goods.
Mr Yassin commended the government’s efforts in the construction of a modern abattoir at Kibaha, Coastal Region.
“It is high time ground handling service providers and exporters invested more on cold chain for transportation of perishable products,” he said.
“Airlines for their part need to increase capacity for carrying perishable products.”
According to the report, cargo carried by international scheduled passenger flights dropped by 4.2 per cent while that carried by freighters declined by 17.9 per cent.
The Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) CEO and managing director, Mr Ladislaus Matindi, said they were conducting a study to see the possibility of having an aircraft that will be specifically for cargo.
He said currently a large portion of cargo was being carried by foreign airlines because of locals’ low capacity. Mr Matindi said they were carrying eight tonnes of freight from India per trip.
ATCL in partnership with other stakeholders have organised a business forum to be held in India on March 5 where businesses from Tanzania will market their products.
“We have what it takes for Tanzania to export to India products like tomatoes, onions and other perishable goods via air transport,” noted Mr Matindi.
Precision Air chief executive officer Patrick Mwanri could not be reached for a comment on the issue.