According to Andrew Tilton of Goldman Sachs, mid-year economic projection for China points towards continued growth in consumption after a very good half-year overall economic growth of 7 per cent in the first six months of 2017.
Superficially this is good news for the perishables sector, notably fresh produce, yet it also poses considerable logistical challenges, which could be repeated next year. The first part of 2017 was marred by a severe shortage of reefer boxes. Although the spectre of a shortfall being repeated in the second half of the year may not be as acute, the effect of underinvestment in reefer box capacity has not gone away.
Several different shipping lines and some freight forwarders mentioned both in private and in public the effect of the ‘China pull’ being felt in South America from where the bulk of fresh produce continues to originate.
“China sources nearly a quarter of fresh produce from Chile alone and given that Chinese consumers tend to pay more than Europeans and North Americans the effect on reefer box demand worldwide has become palpable," says Alex von Stempel, managing director, Cool Logistics Resources.
Von Stempel will conduct the annual Cool Logistics Asia Seminar 6-8 September within the trade show’s hall forum two of Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong.
In the first four months of 2017, EU member states exported 50 per cent more fresh produce to China compared to the same period in 2016 based on Eurostat figures.
Although the exports to China only represent less than 2 per cent of exports to non-EU countries this still generated income of approaching €30m.
As a result, freight forwarders in Northern Europe have found it tough to lay their hands on empty reefer boxes, which are naturally also being used to carry other perishable commodities, such as seafood and meat.
Raul Saca, global head of the reefer segment, pineapples and bananas at Mærsk, USA will be the first speaker at Cool Logistics Asia next month to address some of the logistical challenges surrounding container shipping and perishables. He will be joined by Dr Jonathan Beard, head of transportation and logistics, Asia at Arcadis together with Angelina Lei of Hongkong international Terminals (Hit) to discuss port infrastructure issues in the region, including the possible impact of cabotage (the transport of goods between two places in the same country by a transport operator from another country) in China and the wider impact of the One Belt One Road initiative (OBOR) on fresh produce distribution.
In theory, fresh produce could become one of the main beneficiaries of OBOR, significantly shortening the supply chain between Asia and Europe and thus provide an alternative to the all-sea route between the two Continents. Nevertheless, at this stage the volumes may still be compared to just a drop in the ocean.
Other topics covered at Cool Logistics Asia this year includes cross border e-commerce involving food and an assessment of expanding this concept into the specific new fresh produce segments. Reefer box veteran Alfred Cheung - himself now shipping food using e-commerce between Hong Kong, Japan and mainland China - will address this issue.
Less experimental issues will also feature in this year’s Cool Logistics Asia programme, including the continuation of the highly successful ‘Logistics for beginners’ course, launched at the content forum, Logistics Hub, during Fruit Logistica in Berlin earlier this year. Andy Connell heads up A-Bar-C Services. He used to be logistics director for Dole South Africa in Cape Town and will revisit some of the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ at the Asian seminar presenting ‘hot off the shelf’ post-harvest research at the meeting in between.
Given the importance of India, a presentation by Tarun Arora, will tackle logistical challenges and solutions offered by IG international, the company he represents. The company has committed significant investments to developing cold storage capacity in India and now looks to export fresh produce to China and other countries.
Finally on the 8 September, the seminar will focus on the subject of airfreight, and study first as well as last mile issues in Spain and China in the attempt to convince Spanish exporters to divert greater attention to this market. The lead presentation will be given by Oliver Huesmann, a consummate marketing professional with more than just a passing interest in perishable logistics. ‘Time to market is critical for fresh produce and every day you can cut your delivery time by is a bonus,” he will say. Huesmann will be joined by Natasha Solana from Kuehne + Nagel and Frank van Gelder from Adelantex.