The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the UK’s export market

Perishable Movement Limited’s Business Development Manager Robert Haynes explains how the global COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge disruption to the goods import and export market.


The industry has seen huge uncertainty with prices and cost of transporting goods due to an uncertain global transport system.


Despite the tough market PML has managed Block Space Agreements and Single Carriage Agreements to secure and maintain competitive prices for their customers.


PML continue to work closely with all carriers to ensure customers’ products arrive on time and in perfect condition.

Gustavo Mundel of PML looks at how Brexit and the pandemic are impacting the sector

The airfreight sector has shown significant growth in recent years with global airfreight volumes reaching 61.3m tonnes in 2019 (source: Statista 2020). 

Two dominant factors can be identified which have led to the clear increased demand for air transportation services capable of transferring commercial goods. The meteoric rise of e-commerce and the ability to purchase products from all over the world simply by the click of a button has stimulated a dramatic interest in delivery services that can provide a means of speedy fulfilment, to match consumer expectations.

In addition to this, while airline fuel prices reached an all-time high in 2012 which attributed to slow growth in air freight volumes, the notable fall in the cost of airline fuel in 2016 resulted in clear evidence of a growth in airfreight volume.

Benefits of airfreight

For a company involved in the transportation of temperature-sensitive, perishable goods, the advantages of moving consignments via airfreight lanes are clear. Firstly, the sheer speed of transit – air travel is by far the fastest mode of transport and hence, for products which have a finite shelf-life, the opportunity to maximise the length of time during which the goods can remain on sale in store, is critical. The difference between moving goods by air or sea can represent an extended shelf-life of up to 48 hours.

In addition, flights to destinations all over the world (under normal conditions), are frequent, providing a much wider window of opportunity to book in the expeditious transfer of cargo.

Finally, given the much-debated impact of Brexit, air travel provides the ability to transcend border delays and while the pandemic obviously has had a major impact on passenger numbers, airports largely have been able to remain operational and have been able to continue providing a much-needed service to maintain the supply of essential goods – including PPE – around the world.

Competitive charters

Within the specific chartered air freight sector competition is fierce. There are a number of carriers now offering their services directly rather than via a charter broker and in some ways, these airlines are starting to operate as logistics providers in their own right.

From merely selling space on the aircraft, they are increasingly offering a complete one-stop shop to secure business and ensure flights are filled to maximum capacity.

Although passenger traffic has been seriously compromised by the global outbreak of coronavirus, many of the airlines have been quick to seize the opportunity to retrofit aircraft to enable them to operate as cargo carriers providing the ability to continue flying at improved capacity.

Trends for 2021

But what does the future hold for chartered airfreight services? There is no sign of any slow-down in the world of e-commerce, in fact quite the opposite. With so many consumers forced to adapt their shopping habits in response to the restrictions imposed as a result of Covid-19, it is likely that the changes that have been made will be long lasting.

While the world remains optimistic that the traditional retailers will be able to resume normal trading, the fact is that consumers will have become accustomed to revising their approach to purchasing and will be loathed to turn their back on the speedy digital shopping experience.

In response to this, more and more aircraft are being reconfigured to carry cargo, rather than passengers and there has been a spike in the number of aircraft retrofit businesses able to undertake these specialist works.

Since the production of the Boeing 747 has stopped in favour of the more fuel efficient, newer 777, so interest in the procurement of 777s to lease or buy has increased and while some of these may already be converted for cargo, we are likely to see more of these passenger aircraft configured to accommodate the exclusive handling of cargo. 

The world of e-commerce traditionally focuses on a high proportion of goods being transported out of China into major European hubs. As a result, there is likely to be a predicted growth in the number of chartered airfreight services transferring consignments out of these hubs and delivering them to local European markets. This means that once again, the pressure for space will be intensified on these flights.

Given the world’s growing mandate to address the need to slow down climate change, it is also likely that the future will bring new breakthroughs in fuel efficient engines which represent an improved carbon emissions proposition. 

For companies who trade on their ‘green’ credentials, this will enable them to potentially reconsider the use of chartered aircraft, which will in turn create further demand for space.

Impact of Brexit

Brexit has effectively provided a massive boost to the chartered airfreight industry. Companies which specialise in perishable goods cannot risk being caught up in cross-border delays, delays which can have a devastating impact on time-sensitive produce.  UK supermarkets and independents demand quality fresh produce, with a good shelf-life.

Goods that have been kept in transit when they should have been on the shelves will have a reduced shelf-life triggering substantial losses to the producer. 

For PML, the speed of transit associated with chartered aircraft services, supported by the company’s ability to handle product with an unbroken cold chain thanks to its unique relationship with Heathrow’s only dedicated chilled airside facility, has dictated an even stronger interest in chartered air freight in the wake of Brexit. Such is the demand that PML, has seized the initiative to charter its own aircraft to ensure the seamless and timely transfer of fresh produce.

Coronavirus crisis

The impact of the global pandemic continues to be felt in all sectors of industry and the chartered airfreight sector is certainly not exempt. As countries begin to prepare for massive vaccination programmes the priority for many airlines is to capitalise on the opportunity to carry the vaccines and as a result the race for space on chartered flights continues to heat up.

Competition for space in turn brings with it spiralling prices. Now the charters are becoming even more expensive due to the potential to charge a premium price for the transportation of PPE and vaccines.

Looking ahead

As the biggest independent perishable goods importer, PML continues to work hard to stay ahead of the curve. In addition to chartering its own twice-weekly flight from Nairobi to Heathrow, the company is watching the market to identify new opportunities to increase the number of flight rotations operated by PML and its partner network.

Having an in-house air charter service division, headed up by someone who has acted on both sides of the fence, working for an airline as well as an independent charter broker means that the company is well placed to access the very best air trade lanes. But as anyone in the logistics business will testify, these will be challenging times for the industry.

Source: Fruitnet.com

Baffling Brexit rules threaten export chaos, Gove is warned

Business groups tell ministers to sort out bureaucratic mess caused by EU trade deal.

Perishable Movements Limited senior management team remain ready and able to provide advice to government ministers as needed and to importers struggling to navigate the red tape of the post-Brexit trade deal.

Empty shelves at a Marks & Spencer’s store in Belfast. The retailer has warned that red tape will increase costs.
Empty shelves at a Marks & Spencer’s store in Belfast. The retailer has warned that red tape will increase costs.

Ministers must restart trade negotiations with Brussels immediately to sort out the “baffling” array of post-Brexit rules and regulations that now threaten much of the UK’s export trade to the EU, leading business groups have said.

Amid mounting anger among UK firms at cross-border friction they were told would not exist, British manufacturing and trade organisations met Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove in an emergency session on Thursday to discuss problems resulting from the deal struck by Boris Johnson with the EU before Christmas.

The prime minister had hailed what he claimed was a “zero-tariff” and “zero-quotas” deal that would allow free and simple access to the single market. Less than a month on, however, Britain’s EU departure appears to be anything but pain-free.Advertisement

One leading figure involved in the talks with Gove described the new rule book as a “complete shitshow”. Another said Gove seemed “very concerned” at hearing reports of problems, after a week in which Marks & Spencer was among leading companies to warn that more bureaucracy would increase costs. The source added: “He [Gove] seemed to realise the full gravity of the situation that is unfolding and about to get worse.”

Gove admitted on Friday that there would be “significant additional disruption” at UK borders as a result of Brexit customs changes in the coming weeks.

In the first week after the UK finally left both the single market and customs union, the parcels firm DPD suspended some of its services, bookseller Waterstones halted sales to customers in the EU and UK fishermen warned they would not be able to sell their fresh produce into EU markets because of delays at borders.

There were also problems with consignments between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as new border checks caught many businesses unawares. Luxury food store Fortnum & Mason also told customers on its website: “We are temporarily unable to deliver to Northern Ireland or countries in the European Union”, while Debenhams has temporarily shut its online business in Ireland.

Some of the problems are being blamed on a rushed deal, and others on the sheer complexity of arrangements including “rules of origin”, some of which have not been finally determined. Only goods made up largely of parts that originate in the UK qualify as tariff-free.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of the Northern Ireland business organisation Manufacturing NI, said: “The reason why the UK and EU originally agreed that there would be an implementation period of 11 months was so that people could get their heads around what was needed and assure their businesses were compliant. But we didn’t have that. We had seven days before everyone had to be ready, and one of those was Christmas Day.

“There is a big problem with GB businesses being unaware of their new responsibilities. We have the triple whammy here of Covid, Christmas and new customs rules arriving all at once without any time to adjust.”

Johnson assured Northern Ireland business owners in November 2019 that they would have “unfettered access” to the rest of the UK. “There will be no forms, no checks, no barriers of any kind,” he said. If anyone told them they needed to fill in forms, “tell them to ring up the PM and I will direct them to throw that form in the bin.”

The government was also facing pressure over its Brexit deal from the SNP. Ian Blackford, the party’s leader in Westminster, called on the UK government to “pay compensation to Scotland”, claiming a “multibillion compensation package” was needed to mitigate the costs of Brexit in Scotland.

Stephen Phipson, chief executive of the manufacturers’ organisation Make UK, said much still needed to be negotiated between the UK and EU. “Industry welcomed the trade agreement that avoided the catastrophe of no-deal, as tariffs and quotas would have been a disaster for exporters. However, this is only a starting point, as there are still substantial issues that need ironing out, with many months, if not years, of tough negotiations ahead.

“There are customs experts with 30 years’ experience who are baffled by what the new regulations mean, let alone small- and medium-sized businesses who have never had to deal with the kind of paperwork that is now required. The great fear is that for many it will prove too much and they will simply choose not to export to the EU.”

He also raised fears about the UK car industry, which could be adversely affected by tariffs if EU rules relating to the origins of components used in car manufacture cannot be met. “Having built up seamless and complex supply chains over decades, the automotive sector in the UK is facing a jolt to its systems that places its very future under threat,” he added. “While there is no suggestion multinationals will close plants overnight, we have already seen decisions to build new models placed elsewhere. As those models that have been built in the UK for many years come to the end of their life, we are likely to see a slow puncture for the sector of investment drifting away.”

Dominic Goudie head of international trade at the Food and Drink Federation said talks needed to re-start between the UK Brussels.

“Where problems emerge there will need to be further conversations,” he said. “The trade deal provides the means to do that. It is a question of whether is the will to do so” (after so many months of talks.”

Sam Lowe, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, said there were problems that could grow over coming weeks and months.

“The new import/export formalities are proving problematic for many companies. The lack of obvious queues at the border disguises the fact that many trucks are stuck in depots, unable to head to the ports due to their clients failing to provide the necessary documentation and information.”

Source: The Guardian

What does 2021 have in store for chartered air freight services?

There is no sign of any slow-down in the world of e-commerce, in fact quite the opposite. With so many consumers forced to adapt their shopping habits in response to the restrictions imposed as a result of Covid-19, it is likely that the changes that have been made will be long lasting.

While the world remains optimistic that the traditional retailers will be able to resume normal trading, the fact is that consumers will have become accustomed to revising their approach to purchasing and will be loathed to turn their back on the speedy digital shopping experience.

Perishable Movements limited, Sales director Nick Finbow.

In response to this, more and more aircraft are being reconfigured to carry cargo, rather than passengers and there has been a spike in the number of aircraft retrofit businesses able to undertake these specialist works. Since the production of the Boeing 747 has stopped in favour of the more fuel efficient, newer 777, so interest in the procurement of 777s to lease or buy has increased and while some of these may already be converted for cargo, we are likely to see more of these passenger aircraft configured to accommodate the exclusive handling of cargo.

The world of e-commerce traditionally focuses on a high proportion of goods being transported out of China into major European hubs. As a result, there is likely to be a predicted growth in the number of chartered air freight services transferring consignments out of these hubs and delivering them to local European markets. This means that once again, the pressure for space will be intensified on these flights.

Given the world’s growing mandate to address the need to slow down climate change, it is also likely that the future will bring new break throughs in fuel efficient engines which represent an improved carbon emissions proposition. For companies who trade on their ‘green’ credentials, this will enable them to potentially reconsider the use of chartered aircraft, which will in turn create further demand for space.

Impact of Brexit

Brexit has effectively provided a massive boost to the chartered air freight industry. Companies which specialise in perishable goods cannot risk being caught up in cross-border delays, delays which can have a devastating impact on time-sensitive produce. UK supermarkets and independents demand quality fresh produce, with a good shelf life. Goods which have been kept in transit when they should have been on the shelves will have a reduced shelf life triggering substantial losses to the producer.

For Perishable Movements Limited, the speed of transit associated with chartered aircraft services, supported by the company’s ability to handle product with an unbroken cold chain thanks to its unique relationship with Heathrow’s only dedicated chilled airside facility, has dictated an even stronger interest in chartered air freight in the wake of Brexit. Such is the demand that Perishable Movements Limited, has seized the initiative to charter its own aircraft to ensure the seamless and timely transfer of fresh produce.

Coronavirus crisis

The impact of the global pandemic continues to be felt in all sectors of industry and the chartered air freight sector is certainly not exempt. As countries begin to prepare for massive vaccination programmes the priority for many airlines is to captialise on the opportunity to carry the vaccines and as a result the race for space on chartered flights continues to heat up.

Competition for space in turn brings with it spiraling prices. Not only are logistics companies having to contend with the traditional seasonal variation in prices due to the influx of electronic products to satisfy the Christmas market, now the charters are becoming even more expensive due to the potential to charge a premium price for the transportation of PPE and vaccines.

Looking ahead

As the biggest independent perishable goods importer, Perishable Movements Limited continues to work hard to stay ahead of the curve. In addition to chartering its own twice-weekly flight from Nairobi to Heathrow, the company is watching the market to identify new opportunities to increase the number of flight rotations operated by Perishable Movements Limited and its partner network.

Having an in-house air charter service division, headed up by someone who has acted on both sides of the fence, working for an airline as well as an independent charter broker means that the company is well placed to access the very best air trade lanes. But as anyone in the logistics business will testify, these will be challenging times for the industry

Source: Fresh Talk Daily