Domestic Air Freight Developments

Since the start of the Qantas Emirates partnership in 2013, more people have been traveling, which is great news for fresh food like lamb and beef that need to reach distant markets quickly. Two decades ago, around 1.9 million folks traveled internationally through Perth airport and by ten years later, that number had more than doubled. This boom in passenger flights also meant more room for cargo, which helped us send Australia’s sought-after seafood and meats to places like China and the Middle East.

High-income customers in these areas are willing to pay top dollar for fresh foods, but the market isn’t gigantic; it’s similar to luxury cars—only a limited number of people can afford them. When we produce too much, say too many lobsters, prices tumble and we end up with an overflow that may even get frozen and shipped aimlessly around the world. The same goes for lamb: too much, and it either gets shipped live or frozen, trying to find buyers.

Our farmers need planes flying regularly to keep up with the demand. If we don’t keep sending fresh goods steadily, buyers switch to products from other countries. Sadly, with fewer international flights since COVID-19, industries relying on exporting fresh goods are struggling, made worse by the recent decision not to let Qatar airlines double its flights from Australia.

Considering Australia’s lamb prices have dropped by 50% since the current government took office, we need to capitalize on every chance to export more, especially since Qatar is a top buyer of our meat. After the UAE, Doha, Qatar’s capital, seems like the next place to expand flights to the Middle East.

Unfortunately, the government’s refusal to allow more flights from Qatar is baffling. It harms farmers and producers who are already under pressure from the potential end of the live export trade. Without the more profitable fresh meat market and limited ways to send goods abroad, producers have to rely on selling frozen products, which net them only half as much.

To be profitable, expensive-to-produce products have to reach these higher-paying markets without shipping constraints. For instance, before the pandemic, V and V Walsh (now part of Craig Mostyn Group), a major sheep processor, used to airfreight 7,000 lamb carcases weekly. Now they manage just 750 – 1,000.

Reduced flight capacity and increased costs are hitting hard, with Perth suffering most due to lack of competition. The amount of meat we can send to Middle Eastern and North African countries has plummeted since 2018. The unmet market could take an additional 3,000 lambs a week – that’s about a million a year. Otherwise, these lambs may end up as mutton or frozen products.

The refusal to approve more flights from Qatar combined with stopping the live export trade seems like a double blow to the industry. Despite Perth dominating in high-value exports like lobster, meat, and even gold coins, it’s being left behind in airfreight opportunities compared to cities like Sydney. And while larger cities can support dedicated freight planes, Perth has to rely on whatever space is available on passenger flights.

Nowadays, air freight at Perth’s airport manages about 1,000 tonnes of exports weekly, with most being fresh goods. However, without sufficient flights, many products remain grounded when they could be flying to meet global demand. With more flights, we can send our fresh produce to more destinations, increasing opportunities for Australian farmers and producers.

As the world begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and international travel resumes, it is crucial that governments support industries reliant on exporting fresh goods. The recent decision not to allow Qatar airlines to double their flights from Australia has only added to the struggles faced by Australian farmers and producers. It is important that we capitalize on every opportunity to export more, especially when it comes to high-value products like fresh meat and seafood.

In addition to expanding flight opportunities to the Middle East, it is also important for Australia to continue investing in modern infrastructure and technology that can support the transportation of fresh goods. With advancements in cold chain logistics and faster delivery methods, we can ensure that our high-quality products reach their destination in the freshest possible condition.

Furthermore, it is crucial for the government to support and promote international trade partnerships, such as the Qantas Emirates partnership, which has proven to be successful in increasing international travel and supporting industries reliant on exporting fresh goods. By working together with other countries and airlines, we can create a more sustainable and profitable market for our farmers and producers.

In conclusion, the recent struggles faced by Australian farmers and producers highlight the importance of international travel in supporting industries reliant on exporting fresh goods. With a focus on expanding flight opportunities, investing in modern infrastructure and technology, and promoting trade partnerships, we can ensure that Australia continues to thrive as a global leader in providing high-quality fresh produce to the world. So, it is important for governments to provide support and opportunities for these industries, rather than hindering their success with restrictions and limitations. With the right measures in place, Australian farmers and producers can continue to provide top-quality products to high-paying markets around the globe, benefiting both our economy and overall global food supply. Let us work together towards a more sustainable and prosperous future for the Australian agricultural industry. So, it is important to continue advocating for policies that promote international trade and support the growth of these vital industries. Let’s ensure that our fresh goods reach their destination efficiently and in top condition, securing Australia’s place as a leading exporter in the global market.