The continued expansion of Australia’s export market for fresh food in Asia and the US is under threat from the possible imposition of surcharges by the major airlines on airfreight.

According to the Melbourne Age newspaper, Qantas and Singapore Airlines last week introduced a surcharge of A$20 (US$10) per airway bill plus 10 cents a kilogram to all air freight, explaining that since the attacks of 11 September the cost of insurance and route charges had dramatically increased their own costs.

Other airlines are also believed to have introduced a surcharge, some as high as 30 cents a kilogram.

Dealing with low margins and high volumes, food exporters are most susceptible to the charges and Bill Bray, president of the Victorian Farmers Federation pastoral group, told the paper that rural producers are extremely concerned about any rise in the cost of airfreight.