The maritime reefer vessel transport's growth has generally coincided with the growth of dry cargo in the last 10 years. Proteins and bananas dominate this segment and accounted for 52% of the 130.5 million tons transported in 2019. Meat in particular has been the engine of growth in the past 12 to 18 months due to significant imports from China due to the effects of the swine flu. However, import demand in Chile is expected to decline as the Asian pig stock recovers, leaving many wondering what will drive the future growth of reefer shipping.
The answer lies in exotic products, which have become a growing commodity in trade in the last 10 years. According to the Drewry Reefer Annual Review and Forecast 2020/21 report, ocean freight for exotic fruits outpaced all other major commodity groups, increasing at an average annual rate of 5%.
While the transport of pineapples has slowed, mangoes, persimmons, durians, and, in particular, avocados, have seen an increase in demand.
Mangoes are now the second most important exotic fruit in terms of volume after pineapples, with more than 1.3 million tons transported by sea in 2019 and an average annual growth rate of 5.2% during the last decade.
The avocado boom
However, avocado has become ubiquitous thanks to a combination of improved agriculture, new post-harvest processes, and supply chain innovations that enable the availability of ready-to-eat products. However, its growth is being fueled by the discovery of the endless possibilities in the markets of North America, Northern Europe, and Asia.
Avocado trade has benefited from the technological advances of reefer shipping containers, in particular, because of their greater reliability and broader controlled atmosphere options, which allow the product to travel further and extend its shelf life. In fact, the avocado is the third most important import product handled in the Port of Rotterdam after bananas and grapes. Avocado imports via this port increased by more than 30% in the first half of 2020 reaching 244,000 tons.