Picking up economic activities in the post lockdown period, Indian Railways has initiated a special parcel service to Bangladesh, the first international cargo express, covering 1,372 kilometres for transporting chilli.
Focusing on efficient and customised freight operations, the special 16-parcel vans train from Guntur chugged off on Friday carrying 384 tonnes of chilli worth Rs 18 lakh to Benapole in the neighbouring country, heralding a new trend for transportation of agri merchandise from this area.
Guntur is a hub of chilli export and different spices. With an acreage of 75,000 hectares, the district is among the many prime chilli producing regions in the country.
Considering the excessive demand for export of chilli and different spices like turmeric, ginger, onion, cumin seeds to Bangladesh, a proposal has been made for operating a time-tabled parcel cargo express from Guntur to Benapole.
Though we are sending mango, fish and milk in parcel service within the country, it is the first time that parcel train was operationalised outside of the country, said a senior railway official.
Guntur district has been a hub of manufacturing, aggregation and processing of chilli and different spices. The booming cultivation of these merchandise is sustained with a ecosystem of mirchi yard, processing centres and a series of chilli storage services with extensive export networks.
The official said while the first parcel train left Guntur on 10 July, efforts are on to send the next cargo shortly as there is a growing demand for it.
Guntur and its surrounding areas in Andhra Pradesh are well known for chilli cultivation. The quality of this farm produce is internationally renowned for its uniqueness in taste and brand.
Earlier, the farmers and merchants in and around Guntur were transporting dry chilli by road to Bangladesh in small quantities, and that was costing around Rs 7,000 per tonne.
During the lockdown period, they could not transport this essential commodity by road. Then the railways approached the consignors and explained the facilities to transport by rail.
Accordingly, one special parcel express train consisting of 16 parcel vans was sent to Bangladesh. Each parcel van was loaded with 466 dry chilli bags weighing around 19.9 tonnes, and the total weight carried by the special parcel express was around 384 tonnes.
The cost per tonne for transport by special parcel express is Rs 4,608, which is very cheap and economical compared to road transport.
It may be noted that Indian Railways has taken a series of steps to boost parcel train traffic during the Covid-19 period.
Transportation of essential items like medical supplies, medical equipment, food, etc in small parcel sizes are very important items that are needed for business as well as consumption purposes.
Earlier, dry chilli was carried by rail in bulk through goods trains. But for moving the consignment by goods trains, it is mandatory for the farmers and merchants to mobilise the quantity in bulk which is at least more than 1,500 tonne during each trip.
In order to mitigate this problem, and to facilitate the rail users to transport their supplies in small quantities up to a maximum of 500 tonnes in each trip, Guntur division of South Central Railway took the initiative to send the special parcel express to Bangladesh.
South Central Railway General Manager Gajanan Mallya and the Railway Board have proactively pursued the proposal with the Bangladesh government and obtained permission for operating parcel cargo into Bangladesh in a very short time.
Adviser (Railways), Indian High Commission in Bangladesh, Anita Barik, too has actively piloted the proposal with Bangladesh Railways.
This has helped the farmers and merchants of Guntur to market their farm produce beyond the country’s border by transporting the dry chilli in small quantities by the special parcel express.
In order to meet this vital need, Indian Railways has made railway parcel vans available for quick mass transportation by e-commerce entities and other customers including state governments. The railways has been running time-tabled parcel special trains on select routes to ensure uninterrupted supply of essential items.
A total of 4,434 parcel trains have run from March 2020 until 11 July out of which 4,304 have been time-tabled trains.