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Latin American uplift

The Latin American perishables market is booming, and, as Ian Putzger finds, cargo operators are seeing record volumes – particularly to Asia – but capacity remains limited and expensive

Panalpina has continued its advance into the perishables sector with a major acquisition in Latin America. In mid-June the logistics giant announced an agreement to take over Newport Cargo, the leading air freight export agent in Argentina. Newport handles some 24,000 tonnes of air cargo a year, predominantly perishables. Its reach extends beyond Argentina. Fish, fruit and seeds are trucked in from other countries in the region for export by air.


“With this acquisition we are expanding our perishables footprint in an entire region and again strengthening our global end-to-end capabilities for perishables,” commented Panalpina CEO Stefan Karlen when the acquisition was announced. So far, Newport has shipped mostly to North America, but in the Panalpina fold there will be moves to develop flows to other markets, such as Europe, says Roberto Schiavone, Panalpina’s Senior Vice President, Air Freight, South and Central America.


Perishables flows out of Latin America have been going strong. Panalpina has registered 20% growth this year, according to Schiavone. Airlines also report rising volumes. Air France KLM Martinair Cargo (AF-KL-MP) saw perishables exports climb 17% last year and 21% in the first four months of 2018, asserts Enrique Falcon Deville, Director South America. Rodrigo Casal, Regional Manager South America at IAG Cargo, reports that all of the carrier’s routes from the region to the UK and Spain have performed ‘exceptionally well’. 


Salmon exports from Chile have been particularly buoyant. It has been the best performing commodity in the past 6-18 months, notes Andres Bianchi, CEO
of LATAM Cargo, the region’s leading cargo carrier. “Just on our Chile to Tel Aviv route alone we have already filled 26 aircraft with fresh salmon, making it a considerable increase since this time last year. We are also seeing triple-digit growth across exports to China, Spain and other parts of Europe. Over the coming months we will be continuing to transport an average of 100 tonnes of fresh salmon per month to Madrid,” says Casal.


American Airlines carries salmon on its northbound flights out of Santiago as well as Buenos Aires. “Once our Santiago capacity is filled we truck to Buenos Aires. Our biggest widebodies fly to the deep south,” says Lorena Sandoval, Managing Director, Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean. Chilean salmon is not the only perishable commodity from the region that is producing soaring volumes. Avocado – chiefly from Mexico but also from Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, Chile and northern Brazil – is enjoying a worldwide craze. Mangoes are also in robust demand.


“We are currently shipping 13% more avocados and mangoes from Mexico into Spain than this time last year, and exports of flowers from Colombia to Spain have increased by 40%,” reports Casal. Of late, pineapples have produced a surge in traffic. American has carried a large amount from Central America to Milan and Amsterdam this year. For Lufthansa Cargo pineapple from the Dominican Republic has been doing well, reports Gunnar Loehr, Head of South America.


Some new crops are entering the picture. “Over the last months we saw a large increase in demand for tropical fruits from the Andean countries, such as pitahaya from Ecuador and Colombia, physalis, sweet granadilla, passion fruit or soursop,” notes Falcon. The biggest demand for these is in China, Hong Kong and Japan, but AF-KL-MP also ships some to Europe. >>


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