Market Morsel: Leaving on Jetplane, don’t know when airfreight will be back again

Conversations | 15th June 2023 | By Andrew Whitelaw

Market Morsel

Most of our agricultural produce is sent over the sea in bulk, live or in containers. There is, however, a trade in produce which flies to its destination. I thought it was interesting to look at the airfreight trade.

The first chart below shows the total number of passengers and freight leaving Australia. If we look at the chart below, we can see that generally, there is a close relationship between the number of passengers and the amount of freight moving overseas.

The odd years were during covid when there were few passengers, but the government provided subsidies through the ‘International Freight Assistance Mechanism’. This maintained freight levels at a reasonably high level.

I wanted to look specifically at trade into the middle east, as this can be important, especially for sheep meat. I chose for this simple analysis the United Arab Emirates.

The second chart shows the total air freight from Australia to the UAE. The majority of the freight into the UAE is sent on planes operated by Emirates and Etihad.

The first point to note is that freight volume is the lowest since at least 2009. It was rising strongly, but since COVID, the volume has not regained. I wonder if part of this is the increase in the number of flights overflying the middles east (the direct flights to London), which is reducing the space available to get goods into the middle east.

It is important to note that most air freight will be piggybacking on passenger flights. It is expected that availability will be much higher in 2023. It is yet to be seen whether volume to the middle east will recover to pre-covid levels.