We're Live Bangla Sunday, September 26, 2021

Australia to lift air cargo ban on Bangladesh


Australia is set to lift its ban on direct cargo flights from Dhaka, a move that is expected to boost Bangladesh's shipments to the continent.

"The Australian government has already taken an initiative to amend rules. There are also some other procedures. Direct flights will resume after the completion of the procedures," Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Jeremy Bruer told The Daily Star yesterday.

The Australian government is amending the associated policy, said Bruer, according to a press release of the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab).

He held a meeting with Caab Chairman Air Vice Marshal Mafidur Rahman at the latter's Dhaka office yesterday.

The country of the southern hemisphere was the first to impose the bar in December 2015 citing a lack of security at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka.

Four and a half months later, it was relaxed, with Bangladeshi freights having to be re-screened in a third country before it could be allowed to reach Australia.

Riding on duty-free benefits on the shipment of goods, especially garment items, Bangladesh has already been able to turn Australia into a major export destination.

Garment exports alone amounted to $719.78 million in fiscal 2018-19. It declined to $601.14 million in fiscal 2019-20 owing to the fallouts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In fiscal 2017-18, the apparel export was recorded at $634.01 million, according to data from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

During the July-January period of the current fiscal year, the shipments increased 9.50 per cent year-on-year to $432.19 million.

Bangladesh has the potential to export garment products worth one billion dollars to 11 emerging countries within the next one or two years, and Australia is one of them.

Kmart, Australian Woolworth and Target Australia are the major Australian garment buyers from Bangladesh, according to exporters.

Earnings from Bangladesh's overall exports to Australia stood at $729.7 million in fiscal 2019-20 while its corresponding imports at $252.9 million.

As for fiscal 2018-19, the figures were $629.3 million and $347.1 million respectively.

Exporters have hailed the decision as it would save them money and time.

Bangladesh's readymade garment export to Australia has been growing steadily despite the cargo restriction, said BGMEA President Rubana Huq.

The figure stood at $692 million in 2019 and declined slightly to $632 million in 2020, she said.

"So the latest withdrawal will definitely boost business to a considerable extent," she told The Daily Star in a WhatsApp message.

The ban was also imposed by the United Kingdom in 2016 and the European Union in June 2017.

Afterwards, Bangladesh recruited British company Redline for the screening of exports and training manpower as a part of measures to enhance the airport's security standards.

A number of explosive detection systems were installed while dogs trained at carrying out the task were also brought in.

An independent team from the EU carried out an assessment and Bangladesh passed the validation test in November 2017. Satisfied with the improvements, the UK government fully withdrew the ban in 2018.