APL optimistic about global reefer trade

While the El Nino effect this year has had an impact on global reefer trade flows, it has not been completely negative. Shortage of supply of bananas from the Philippines for example has led to Asian importers sourcing from Latin America instead, according to APL head of special cargo Ng Kar Loke.

He cited suppliers that have suggested supply has dropped by as much as 40% over the same period last year from the usual Asian suppliers to the Asian market in the Philippines and this is being made up for by producers in Ecuador and Costa Rica, he said.

This has not posed problems with container flows, Ng said, and in fact has created new opportunities. "It's just adjusting your container flow to fit the market," he said. "Overall the reefer trade has grown and continues to do very well," Ng said. Other volumes are benefitting as well from trade agreements especially between China and some Latin American countries, aided by advances in technology that have made more sensitive shipments possible.

"The affluence of the middle class is there and new technology has enabled fruits to travel over longer distances while maintaining the freshness so you see more and more suppliers of fresh fruits exploring new markets," Ng said. For example, he highlighted how APL has recently been handling one of the first ever shipments of avocados from Peru to Shanghai.

This development in particular is a result of the combination of China's recent trade deal with Peru and APL's innovative SMARTcare+ controlled atmosphere solution that enables the sensitive fruit to make the long journey to Asia and still arrive fresh for market. "The market is predicting quite a steep increase in demand for avocados," Ng said citing information from clients at the Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong.

With the market still relatively new, Ng declined to give growth projections but said: "We're very optimistic for further growth in this region."

Posted 04 September 2015

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Vincent Wee

Asia Editor, Seatrade Maritime News

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