In the present times, as the global trade networks get complex by the day, the importance of air cargo increases corresponding to it, thereby driving global prosperity. By leveraging its ability to transport goods in a quick and efficient manner, various organisations and industries as a whole, have been able to expand their reach, enhance supply chains, and create new opportunities for growth. It’s rather undeniable that air cargo makes a significant value addition to trade and commerce across continents.
Let’s start with the fashion industry. Being a high street activity with brick and mortar stores as primary retail outlets, fashion was ‘slow moving’. Goods moved via the sea and trends took time to reach consumers. However, the emergence of fast fashion disrupted this traditional model, when Inditex emerged at the scene in 1991, and introduced the world to companies like Zara and Massimo Dutti. Inditex pioneered the concept of fast fashion by making extensive use of air cargo to move their goods across the markets. They quickly identified the latest fashion trends, got them manufactured, and swiftly transported them to global retail outlets. This approach not only made its supply chain more agile, but also helped it stay ahead of the curve, cater to consumer demands in real-time, and reduce its inventory costs.
However, today fast fashion is a thing of the past – it is now the era of ultra-fast fashion. In 2008, when digital commerce company Shein made its entry into the fashion world, they revolutionized the industry by adopting a centralized online presence and eliminating the need for physical retail outlets altogether. The company marked a strong presence by tapping into micro trends – something individuals will not come across in other fast-fashion brands because they draw all their inspiration from the style of designers and celebrities. To ensure they keep up with these micro trends, they leveraged air cargo as their primary mode of distribution, which eventually aided them in rapidly shipping their products to the consumer markets worldwide. This streamlined supply chain approach enabled them to deliver the latest fashion trends to consumers before they even hit the shelves, further enhancing customer satisfaction and driving revenue from across the world.
Moving on, the agriculture sector has also experienced a significant transformation by utilising air cargo for transportation of grains as well as meat/dairy. Prior to the global trend altering event – COVID-19 – Canadian pork belly exports from Manitoba (Canada) followed a lengthy journey – sitting on a truck for two days and then sailing for 28 days to reach the consumer markets in Asia. However, during the pandemic, the global container shortage and shipping slowdown made it difficult for cultivators to export their produce using maritime routes.
In that situation of dire needs, air cargo came to the rescue for these cultivators as they started chartering aircrafts for transportation.The shift from maritime to air cargo not only reduced transportation time but also increased the revenues and profits by transforming chilled pork bellies into fresh pork bellies. The accelerated supply chain, comprising 1 day on a truck and a 14 hour plane journey, added significant value to the product. This investment of about a 1 million CAD turned an 800 million CAD product into a 1.2 billion CAD product, demonstrating how air cargo can enhance the value proposition for an industry.
Similarly, India’s Krishi Udan scheme has emerged as a game-changer for Indian farmers. Just as the shift from maritime to air cargo transformed the Canadian pork belly exports, the Krishi Udan scheme has revolutionized the transportation of agricultural produce in India. Long transportation times and inadequate transportation infrastructure have traditionally posed many challenges for Indian farmers, especially in case of reaching distant markets. However, with the implementation of the Krishi Udan scheme, farmers can now leverage air cargo services to transport their perishable goods quickly and efficiently. Moreover, the scheme enables farmers to access premium markets both domestically and internationally, increasing their profitability and creating value addition.
Moving on, the flower industry in countries like Kenya and Colombia, is also strongly aided by air cargo for exporting their products to international markets. Kenya, for instance, employs half a million people in the flower industry, with over 70% of the flowers being shipped to the European Union. Similarly, Colombia’s flower exports cater to key markets such as the US, UK, Japan, and Russia. Both these countries produce billions of flowers for Valentine’s Day alone. To meet the high demand during peak seasons, airlines operate multiple freighters per day to and from these regions. For instance, back in 2016, Chile based LATAM Airlines flew a fleet of 100 freighters during three weeks preceding Valentine’s Day. This proves that air cargo is a critical component of the flower industry that ensures the timely delivery of flowers, allowing producers to maximize their export potential and contribute to global trade.
While some critics argue that air cargo operations, such as flying 14 freighters a day/100 in less than a month, contribute to environmental issues, it is important to recognize the broader context and the positive implications of such activities. Creating an artificial environment in consuming countries to grow flowers locally would lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint. Additionally, it would result in a loss of livelihood in the producing countries where the flower industry serves as a significant economic driver. Therefore, air cargo plays a crucial role in enabling the global trade of perishable goods, sustaining livelihoods, and fostering economic development in various regions.
The wine industry provides another compelling example of the positive impact of air cargo. The famous ‘Beaujolais Run’ serves as a testament to the transformative power of efficient transportation. In fact, a part of the reason why the Beaujolais Nouveau can go from harvest to store shelves in only a matter of weeks is air cargo transportation.
Back in the 1960s, transporting a single bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau to a Parisian bistro took a considerable amount of time. However, today over 35 million bottles of Beaujolais are exported to over 100 countries within just 60 days, starting from the grape harvest to wine bottling. This accelerated supply chain made possible by air cargo has enabled the French wine industry to thrive on a global scale.
To conclude, air cargo acts as an enabler and driver of global prosperity in multiple industries. From fashion to agriculture and the flower industry, air cargo has revolutionized supply chains, enhanced market access, and created new opportunities for economic growth. Also, while environmental concerns should not be ignored, it is crucial to acknowledge the overall positive impact that air cargo has on global trade and prosperity when implemented responsibly and sustainably.