With the various natural disasters, health crisis and geopolitical tensions occurring year to date, ANL has taken a deep dive into the Group’s Australian import figures to compare average volumes in the first half of the year. The difference in 2020? Quite vast!
Unsurprisingly, some of the biggest differences between an average year and 2020 are in FMCG. Some of the consumer good commodity categories that have significantly increased included water (+46%), grains (+38%), fruit and nuts (+33%), coffee/tea (+24%) and foodstuffs (+6%).
In 2020, within the water commodity, bottled water was imported into Australia in greatest volume. The Group imported 225 shipments of cargo identified as bottled water, in which 86% of bottled water included both mineral and aerated waters. The significant increase in imports was largely justified by in the need to replenish stocks in response to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and related stockpiling (1).
According to data and insights leader Nielsen, Australia’s online sales soared in the first five months of this year by 45%, in comparison to annual online growth of 34% during Q4 2020 (1). The rising consumer hysteria had a ripple effect on a number of items outside of hygiene, which extended itself to long-life items such as pasta (+76%), canned meals (+71%), tea (+62%), rice (+58%), flour (+55%), long-life milk (+50%) and bottled water (+59%) (1).
Of the total mineral and aerated water imports shipped in the first half of this year, 8% were loaded from Italy, 14% from the Netherlands, 20% from Germany and 30% from the United States.
Fruit & Nuts
In a similar fashion, the bushfires, existing drought conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic combined resulted in a steep increase in demand for fresh produce, according to NSW produce industry body, Freshmark (2). The organisation claimed that the mandatory closure of restaurants and cafés, along with many Australians having to stay at home placed increased pressure on the fresh produce industry to meet in-house consumption (2), giving rise to the drastic increase for fruit, nut and grain imports.
From the Group’s perspective, the spike in imports for fruits & nuts included but was not limited to avocados, pineapple, dates, frozen fruits, citrus fruits, apricots, kiwifruit, mixed nuts and other seeds (including mixtures).
In the first six months of 2020, the Group saw an increase of almost 100 grain shipments and an increase of 9% TEU in comparison to 2019. With an estimated six million hectares of land affected by the bushfires (3), Australia faced a severe shortage in both grain production and crop development.
Over the past four months particularly, NSW, VIC, SA, TAS and WA have all been significantly impacted, drawing further implications by the ongoing drought conditions and warmer temperatures said Rabobank’s Grains & Oilseeds Senior Analyst, Cheryl Kalish Gordon (3).
“We predict there will be around 350,000 tonnes coming in from Canada for the upcoming marketing year for use in those niche applications such as gluten making facilities, which requires high protein grades of wheat,” said Australian Crop Forecasters (ACF) analyst James Maxwell said. (4)
Grain itself is a big commodity, in the first half of this year ANL & CMA CGM have moved more than 80 different subsets from cassava starch to rolled oats and buckwheat into Australia. Just like our customers, who saw demand in fresh produce there was also an uptick in retail consumption of cereals, flour and various starches that lead to some outlets needing to add buying limits. In Australia, flour sales rose 140% in March (8).
We’ve seen this firsthand with grain imports from Canada increasing in triple digits on our services. Furthermore, we’ve seen increases in grain imports from Belgium, China, Germany, India, Thailand and the USA suggesting that Australia’s grain sourcing strategy remains quite diverse.
Coffee & Tea
The demand in coffee and tea imports saw a spike of 24% in the first half of the year. Largely containing roasted coffee, decaffeinated coffee, black fermented tea and green tea, the demand in these categories was largely justified by Australia’s well-known coffee culture in conjunction with the restrictions around the pandemic.
For example, in 2019 alone one-in-two (53%) Australians visited a coffee shop or cafe at least once a month (5). With the varying restrictions enforced across the nation, Australians have now turned to drinking coffee at home – spending an additional 37% on coffee from grocery outlets for in-home consumption in the four weeks leading up to March 22, compared to a year ago (5).
According to insights leader Nielsen, all coffee categories saw a dramatic increase in consumption, with coffee beans +49%, standard instant +47%, ground coffee +41% and coffee capsules +23% (5).
In a similar fashion, the trend for tea also echoed this. Alongside household staple items such as toilet paper, there was also a surge in the purchasing of teabags. NSW tea brewer Madura told The Canberra Times that sales nearly doubled, increasing by approximately 90% in the first few months of 2020. With an immense amount of pressure to uphold supply and demand, Madura director Gary Davey said “[they] worked 37 days straight to get stock into the supply chain,” (6).
Mentioned earlier in the piece, the rising consumer hysteria around restrictions resulted in a dramatic flow on effect from hygiene products, through to staple items such as pasta, rice, flour, long-life milk and more. In the first half of the year alone, the Group coordinated 9,219 import shipments of foodstuffs – encompassing pre-packaged foods (i.e. tuna), pasta, juice, assorted sweets, biscuits, jams and spreads, chocolate, mixed vegetables, sauces and more, highlighting the consumer mindset to limit expenditure and prioritization for long-life items to sustain lockdown timeframes.
Additionally, with many families juggling the challenges of working from home and/or home-schooling, it’s no surprise that shoppers have also stocked up on quick-and-easy meal solutions such as prepared meals, canned vegetables, canned soup, pasta and sauce (7). Baking is also high on the homestay agenda as seen by significant sales increases in key ingredients such as flour (+156%) and sugar (+64%) (7). In the four weeks leading up to April alone, Australians stockpiled enough flour to last approximately 65 days, while bread mix volume sales have more than doubled (+170%) (7).
Managing Director of CMA CGM Group Agencies (ANZ) Shane Walden says “From my perspective, the first half of this year has seen drastic from our usual seasonal trends in Australian imports largely due to the environmental and global events that have taken place. To support this change, we are working very closely with our clients to ensure we are able to keep up with demand and facilitate their broader needs.”
Editor’s Note: ANL & CMA CGM Group Agencies (ANZ) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the CMA-CGM group, which is a Shipping Australia member. This article is a lightly-edited version of the original document and it is re-published here with permission.