Australian producers of top-end foods, ranging from lobsters to cherries, run the risk of potentially losing hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, because of an unprecedented lack of uplift from Australia to major destinations in Asia.
According to a Reuters report, Australia has been pushing to become the "delicatessen of Asia," sending luxury produce such as figs and flowers to leading gateways across the affluent Asian
However, finding belly or main deck space has become a major problem as producers of delicacies have increased output to meet demand, while the crunch has been exacerbated as freight carriers are prioritising higher-margin shipments of beef and milk. While fruits and vegetables cost around 70 to 80 Australian cents per kilo to ship by air, frozen beef fetches nearly double.
David Minnis, a fruit and vegetable exporter in Melbourne, was quoted as saying that growers of fruits and vegetables were losing out on up to AU$100 million (US$76 million) in potential sales to Asia per year - a figure that does not include similar missed opportunities in seafood and other fresh foods.
Soaring rural Australian exports
"Air freight is very important to us because some produce, like cherries, asparagus and peaches, can't go by sea,” he said.
Australian fruit can take two days to get to supermarket shelves in China by plane, compared to around two weeks by sea.
Exports of Australian rural goods -- which include meat, fruits, vegetables and cotton sent by sea and air -- were valued at AU$42.7 billion in the 12 months to August, up 37% from five years ago, government statistics show. That accounts for about 13% of the nation's total exports.
Qantas Airways, Virgin, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines all told Reuters they had gradually increased cargo activity out of, or within, Australia.
However, food producers claim these increases are not keeping pace with growing appetite for their products from Asia's middle class. The shortage is particularly acute when demand peaks around Christmas and the Lunar New Year.
Nol van Fenema