The National Horticulture Board along with the Container Corporation of India has flagged off an ‘onion’ freighter from Nashik to Kolkata.

About 1,400 tonnes were shipped in 90 special containers, which have been designed to keep the agriculture produce dry and well ventilated.

Traders are increasingly attracted to this mode of transport as their produce incurs minimal damage and saves time.

Using the railway network, the onions can reach the hinterland faster.

Since August last year, the NHB, along with Container Corporation of India (Concor) had been carrying out similar test runs for farm produce such as bananas and potatoes.

The NHB, Managing Director, Mr Bijay Kumar, told Business Line that the traders have given a good response to such exclusive freighters (or goods train).

The Agra-Mumbai freighter carrying potatoes has been a hit and its capacity utilisation for both legs of the journey has been excellent.

Given the response, NHB is now exploring the possibility of shipping more fruits and vegetables from Kolkata to destinations such as Guwahati, Jorhat and Tinsukia in Assam and Agra to New Delhi.

Options are being explored for starting similar services between Chennai and Kolkata to transport South Indian mangoes, said Mr Kumar.

The container design has been certified by Ludhiana-based Central Institute of Post Harvest Engineering and Technology.

The interior of the container has a lining of food-grade thermal insulation. Vents have been provided at the bottom and top of the container, which also has three doors for loading and unloading the cargo.

The Director of National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed), Mr C. Holkar, said the goods train has created a level playing field, as the Railways rule of booking 40 containers by one party does not apply to these exclusive trains.

Small traders and farmers have taken individual containers and have shipped their produce to Kolkata.

rahulw@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on June 20, 2012)
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