year of monkey © Dashark
© Dashark

Let’s start with the good news for carriers: air freight capacity into China, in advance of Chinese New Year, has been so tight from Australia and New Zealand that shippers are losing out.

The CEO of Cherry Growers Australia told Reuters sales could have doubled if there had been sufficient capacity.

Simon Boughey said: “The demand [for cherries] is there, we just can’t keep up, we need that … air space. It’s an issue that needs to be sorted before next season.”

Another Australian fruit grower, Colleen Dangerfield, export manager at VF Siciliano & Sons, added: “This year we have had some issues with air freight to Hong Kong, there is so much competition to book space for new year, and it has been more difficult because of how much powdered milk is going over.”

Pre- new year exports from China are not so good, however. Regional air freight managers have reported that China’s factories have closed earlier than normal this year, in advance of the holiday, and are expected to stay closed for longer than usual, as manufacturing continues to slow.

Many workers are in fact not expected to return to their jobs. Staff at one shoe factory in Guangdong told the BBC this week that competition from neighbouring countries, along with rising living costs, has made it increasingly difficult to survive.

And it’s not just China’s new year. Vietnam’s Tet holiday begins at the same time.

This, of course, is impacting demand for transport providers. Ocean carriers are suffering, as is air cargo.

Most carriers had been expecting, at most, a short peak, which would boost January’s figures. But with slowing exports and considerable capacity in the market, the ‘peak’ could be relatively weak.

Ashwin Bhat, chief of SwissWorldCargo, acknowledged that the market was soft, but added: “Quite soon after Chinese NewYear is Easter, so there will be a pre-Easter push.

“But we need to understand there are no more peak seasons – it doesn’t happen nowadays. Events like Chinese NewYear used to be about long-term planning; you used to have to think about capacity. Not now. Everyone jumps on the same small share.

“The impact of China’s economy will be clearer after new year,” he added. “It’s too early to call at the moment, we’ll have to see about the market there. So far we’ve managed our China flights well – yield and price are under pressure, but we have maintained load factors so far.”

China’s new year holiday, which kicks off the Year of the Monkey, officially lasts for a week, starting this Sunday.

Gong Xi Fa Cai!


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