Demand for ocean shipping capacity by producers and importers of fresh food is bound to grow faster in the coming years despite economic difficulties in key emerging markets, experts have agreed.
Accelerated growth was forecasted in the annual consumption of fresh food until 2020, according to reefer and agriculture experts from leading global agribusiness financier, the Netherlands’ Rabobank, at the Cool Logistics Global conference in Bruges, Belgium, on 29 September.
Predicted figures are 4.5% for Middle East/Africa (up from 3.5% during 2010-15), 4% in the Asia-Pacific region (up from 3%), and 3% (up from 2%) for Eastern Europe.
“The future looks really bright,” said Paul Bosch, the bank’s food and agriculture supply chain analyst. “There is huge demand, especially for fish and seafood.”
As far as long-distance overseas transport is concerned, Bosch said there are growing opportunities for cargoes out of Europe into China due to the superior traceability and documentation of fresh produce in Europe compared with that in Asia.
“There is big interest in this in China, and the Chinese are ready to pay for it,” Bosch said.
One of the fast-growing niche commodities for ocean export out of northern Europe in recent years is onions, according to Chayenne Wiskerke, sales manager of Dutch supplier JWK Wiskerke Onions.
Climatic issues and water shortages in import countries such as India and Senegal hinder onion production enough to create a need for European imports, she explained.
JWK expects an overall booking volume of 5,500 40 ft reefer containers with ocean carriers this year following years of double-digit sales and volume growth.
On the cargo import side in Europe, opportunities for more specialised handling, storage, and distribution facilities are expected to emerge inside the ports as product and customer requirements continue to diversify.
“We expect more layering of products, more specific challenges, and a diversification of logistics demands,” said Joachim Coens, chief executive of Belgian municipal port manager Port of Zeebrugge.
Despite recent setbacks in container volume developments in Zeebrugge following consortia realignments among the global container lines, the port hopes to gain clients among fresh produce importers with its ‘clean port concept’ with little risk of emissions or contamination from dirty bulk commodities.
Coens cited New Zealand kiwi marketer Zespri’s European hub at Bruges’ Belgian New Fruit Wharf and the local Tropicana juice production as models for growth.