Qantas Freight
Qantas Freight at Sydney Airport

Qantas Freight has denied there is insufficient freighter capacity out of Australia, after perishables exporters claimed they were missing out on millions in revenue.

Last week, fruit and vegetable exporters claimed the high demand for their products from China was not matched by available air freight capacity and they were unable to move enough of their product.

But Qantas Freight executive manager Alison Webster told The Loadstar: “At this stage, we are not at the point of needing additional freighter services. If we see consistent demand we will look to adjust our freighter schedule.”

She noted that the growers were limited by seasonality.

“Many producers of perishable goods have short growing seasons and therefore call on our services a few weeks a year, particularly around Christmas.

“Qantas Freight works with these customers to secure capacity, taking into consideration that availability tightens up around the peak holiday season.”

One cherry company executive told Reuters that the short growing season meant the company didn’t have “much bargaining power”, while another claimed producers were losing out on up to A$100m (US$76m) in potential sales to Asia.

But while some exporters were slamming “insufficient capacity”, others yesterday chartered a Qantas A330 to take producers to Shanghai to boost business for producers in eastern Australia.

The delegation was led by Wagners, the company behind Australia’s first privately built airport, Brisbane West Wellcamp, which last week announced that Cathay Pacific was launching a weekly freighter service to Hong Kong.

Wagner global chairman, and airport developer, John Wagner described the service as “a major coup”, not only for the airport but for Queensland’s primary producers and exporters.

“We are absolutely delighted Cathay Pacific has committed to operating a scheduled weekly Boeing 747-8F service out of the airport. The opportunities this creates for Queensland exporters to benefit from Australia’s free-trade agreements and to access the world’s biggest consumer markets are unlimited.

“We are on the cusp of very exciting times, and the reality for our multimillion-dollar agricultural and processing sectors is that produce like chilled beef and other perishables will be able to fly direct to Asia from the region in which they are produced. This will create both valuable first-mile and cool chain efficiencies, enabling significant capacity for the growth of trade,” said Mr Wagner.

The service will initially depart from Sydney, call at Melbourne and the Brisbane airport at Toowoomba before going on to Hong Kong.

Qantas operates six freighter services a week to Shanghai, Chongqing, Hong Kong and Bangkok, along with belly capacity on Jetstar and Qantas passenger aircraft.

“In January 2017, we will supplement our network with cargo capacity on the new daily Qantas services from Sydney to Beijing,” added Ms Webster.

At the end of last month, Australia Post Group and Qantas Freight signed the largest airfreight contract in Australia — a five-year deal worth A$500m, covering 12,000 tonnes of international mail and airfreight each year.

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