Freight up at Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport as novel coronavirus affects global markets

Freight up at Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport as novel coronavirus affects global markets

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Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport general manager Robert Kasch and TSBE Food Leaders Australia general manager Bruce McConnel.

Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport general manager Robert Kasch and TSBE Food Leaders Australia general manager Bruce McConnel.

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Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport is seeing unexpected benefits from novel coronavirus precautions thanks to increased freight movements through the airport.

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Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport is seeing unexpected benefits from novel coronavirus precautions, with an increased amount of freight finding its way to the Darling Downs tarmac.

Airport general manager Robert Kasch said the novel coronavirus contagion meant that imports and exports normally carried in the underbelly of passenger flights from China to centres such as Brisbane needed to be accomodated on freighters due to cancellations of large numbers of flights.

"[This week] we've had a couple of one-off charters in and freight to Hong Kong on the Cathay service has been really busy," he said.

"We're seeing an increase in demand and we're seeing that long-term we'll probably add more services as well because the demand won't just be during this incident, but there'll be longevity to it.

"Basically there's an increase in dairy and chilled beef requirements to bring freight up to China."

Mr Kasch said while there hadn't been an increase in the number of flights through the airport yet, there was more freight being brought in on scheduled services.

"I'd say percentage wise we're probably up by about 40 or 50 per cent on the freight we're carrying," he said.

"We've been lucky in that we've been able to get it on the current services but Cathay are looking at putting on additional services to support that.

"The virus is spread human to human so there's been no extra protocols needed in terms of swabbing goods as they come in, basically it's just been business as usual for the freight side of the industry."

Mr Kasch said it was a chance for the airport to show its growing capabilities to service importers and exporters.

"There's been a significant growth year on year, so we're talking about 50 per cent a year and continuing every year that's really adding up," he said.

Meanwhile changes to consumer habits due to novel coronavirus could deliver a hit to exporters of premium products.

TSBE Food Leaders Australia general manager Bruce McConnel said as China advises its residents to stay home, consumption of high end restaurant products was down.

"Not only are we seeing a reduction in the number of orders for our premium meat and other food products that are growing in the region due to eating habits in China changing, but we're also seeing a change in how the freight's now moving across Australia," he said.

"For our food producers we still expect it to be, while a hit, not material at this point but it is really unknown.

"The impact of Chinese New Year and the stay at home edicts in China, we still don't know what that means for future orders.

"More importantly in the long term our business development officers, those that are going to China to increase orders, cannot go there at the moment to increase their sales.

"What that means for the rest of the year is still unknown."

Mr McConnel said while impacts were minimal right now, one food producer had to stop the export of a container of beef this week.

"What we're also seeing though to ensure all meat is still being moved and we still have a logistical supply chain is a move from chilled beef to frozen beef to give it significantly more shelf life to ensure it will be consumed over the life of the product," he said.

"There's measures happening here domestically to make sure we minimise the impact internationally and what that means for our international markets.

"We're still new into the coronavirus outcome and we'll have to wait a number of weeks until after Chinese New Year to understand what the true impact of this will be and that's when the cancellation of orders will start hitting our books."

Mr McConnel said while there was a reduction in some exports to China, the ASEAN network of countries was picking up slack in terms of consumer habits.

"We also have the Middle East looking at taking more and more product from our region so there are options for our exporters to go and pursue other markets," he said.

"It's just that we've had a big focus on China for a long period of time and because of that we're going to see some adjustment need to occur."

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