Hyderabad becomes Indian pharma hub

Hyderabad, India: Demand for temperature-controlled transport of pharmaceutical products made in India will continue to grow with Hyderabad the emerging centre for business said Martin Schlingensiepen, Lufthansa Cargo’s vice-president for product management.

Lufthansa Cargo and the GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd, which operates the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad, recently signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at jointly developing the airport into a major cargo hub of Asia for the transport of temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals.

Paul Smith, chief executive officer of Hyderabad Menzes Air Cargo Pvt Ltd – a joint venture created by the United Kingdom-based Menzies group and the GMR group to manage the cargo terminal at the airport – said the Hyderabad airport had generated an “impressive business volume”.

“The pharmaceutical industry has not been affected by the economic downturn. After all, people tend to become sick and there will always be demand for pharmaceuticals,” he said.

A pharma-zone, the first of its kind in India, has already been established at the airport. At present, the airport has a cargo capacity of 100,000 tonnes. But the actual cargo volume shipped from Hyderabad airport is about 75,000 tonnes. The major part of the export-cargo volume – almost 60% – consists of shipments of pharmaceutical products. The airport has become a key outlet for India’s pharmaceutical exports.

The United States is the most important market for India’s pharmaceutical exports, Europe is the second-largest with Brussels serving as a transit point for further shipment and distribution, followed by Africa and Russia, says Smith

India is one of the leading suppliers of generic drugs, particularly for HIV treatment, with drugs shipped to Africa by chartered flights. “Without these generic drugs, HIV-affected people in many countries would suffer. Thus, the Hyderabad airport’s role is unique,” Smith says.

Because of growing traffic, Smith said there were plans for expansion of the terminal in 2011. Domestic cargo transporting companies such as Blue Dart and Deccan 360 will also increase their presence in Hyderabad. With India’s economy posting impressive growth rates, Smith envisaged greater demand for capacity. “We do not have the freighter or belly capacity on passenger aircraft to ship out the products. It would be great to also have Jade Cargo of China [Lufthansa Cargo has a stake in the cargo carrier] in Hyderabad,” he said.

Smith expects airports in Mumbai or Chennai to follow Hyderabad’s example. Mumbai already has a temperature-controlled facility for perishables.

Hyderabad is also creating a free-trade zone. Vikram Jaisinghani, GHAIL’s deputy CEO, confirmed that the free-trade zone would be established on a 28-hectare plot of land that would offer duty and demurrage-free facilities to shippers.

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