TWO export freight routes out of Cairns are expected to be shut down soon, having delivered hundreds of kilos of fruit, seafood and more exotic produce such as croc meat from the Far North.

On January 12, Qantas added Cairns as a stop in their weekly freight route from Sydney to Japan. And Singapore Airlines launched a weekly freight flight out of Cairns late last year. Both may soon stop operating.

An Austrade spokeswoman said the Cairns-Narita service was helping North Queensland businesses reach their international customers.

The Qantas service, which is supported by Austrade's International Freight Assistance Mechanism, is scheduled to operate until February 9.

An Airbus A350 jet aeroplane operated by Singapore Airlines as a freight service takes off from Cairns Airport. Picture: Brendan Radke
An Airbus A350 jet aeroplane operated by Singapore Airlines as a freight service takes off from Cairns Airport. Picture: Brendan Radke


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"Whether it continues beyond that date will depend on demand and utilisation to ensure exporters are well supported," she said.

The spokeswoman said the mechanism "has supported more than 80 freight flights from Cairns for key export markets including Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and the United States, carrying more than 1871 tonnes of produce including fresh fish and seafood. Among the cargo has been 1400kg of croc meat, which is a highly-prized delicacy in Japan."

Another Qantas route which launched in May last year is the weekly freight flight to Hong Kong from Brisbane, and it is listed to conclude on February 11.

And since launching weekly cargo-only flights from Cairns at the end of 2020, Singapore Airlines has carried almost 100 tonnes of fresh produce from the North Queensland region to Singapore and beyond. This has included shipments of North Queensland's famous mangoes, as well as seafood such as live lobsters, to destinations in Asia and Europe.

Singapore Airlines public relations manager Karl Schubert said the service had been able to provide North Queensland producers and exporters with access to the airline's global cargo network.

When asked if there were any plans for Singapore Airlines to extend the route beyond its scheduled closing date of February 19, Mr Schubert said they would "continue to work closely with the local authorities and federal government with regards to the ongoing viability of the service."

Cairns Airport CEO Richard Barker said export routes played a vital role in supporting suppliers and producers from across the Far North to get their seafood and produce to market sooner.

"One in every $5 of exports travels via airports and this route plays a vital role in supporting and facilitating the delivery of high quality fresh produce the region is well known for," he said.

Originally published as 'Croc meat delicacy': What FNQ has been exporting