By Sam Whelan in Hong Kong

Reefer shipping outperformed dry cargo in the first half of 2016, providing one of the few growth markets in what promises to be one of the worst loss-making years for global container shipping. Data collected between January and June by consultant Seabury shows reefer cargo racked up 163,000 extra TEUs on the same period last year. Chilled foods increased by 7 per cent and frozen by 4 per cent. “Together with strong Latin American exports, global growth of containerized reefer cargo is, for a large part, driven by rapidly growing meat imports into China,” said Ronald Veldman, maritime business analyst at Seabury.

Addressing delegates at Cool Logistics Asia in Hong Kong today, Mr. Veldman said China and the U.S. were the main drivers of growth on the import side, while globally the fastest growing commodities were frozen pork, with an additional 68,000 TEUs; bananas, 25,000 TEUs more; and citrus, up 15,000 TEUs.

“There were more winners than losers in refrigerated trades,” said Mr. Veldman. Growing demand in North and South-east Asia is responsible for the majority of additional reefer trade, while few countries have seen their imports decline so far in 2016.” For example, China and Hong Kong combined experienced a 20 per cent increase in frozen perishable imports, reaching a total of 79,000 TEUs. In Japan, where the government is placing a special focus on reefer shipping as a method of boosting national agricultural exports, frozen and perishable imports reached 10,000 TEUs – up 4 per cent.

South-east Asia also experienced strong reefer import growth, with the Philippines up 17 per cent to 10,000 TEUs, Thailand up 18 per cent to 10,000 TEUs and Taiwan up 16 per cent to 7,000 TEUs. On intra-Asia tradelanes, Mr. Veldman said fresh foods were ahead of other perishables, with “commodities such as onions, garlic and fruits growing substantially over the past five years and responsible for close to 70 per cent of overall perishables trade growth”.

Seabury data from 2010-2015 show that, of the 283,000 reefer TEUs added within intra-Asia, onions and garlic accounted for 45,000 TEUs, meat 54,000 TEUs and, perhaps most significantly, fruit accounted for 77,000 TEUs.

“Increased share of fruit leads to more seasonal trade patterns, since fruits typically follow much more seasonal yield patterns than vegetables and, especially, frozen products like protein. This is creating new opportunities in the intra-Asia market,” Mr. Veldman said.

Meanwhile, India could experience a particularly strong reefer market over the next five years. According to Mr. Veldman, at 0.03 TEUs per 1,000 inhabitants, India imports far fewer perishables per capita than the global average, or other emerging markets. For example, China imports 0.6 TEUs per 1,000 people, the U.S. 1 TEU and the EU 1.2 TEUs. “Indian imports could add significantly to global demand by 2020. For example, if India achieved half the ratio of perishable imports to the population size of China by 2020 [0.3 TEUs per 1,000], global perishables trade would increase by approximately 300,000 TEUs more than currently forecast.”

Reprinted courtesy of The Loadstar (