According to Morrison, the Kotahi partnership also has growth potential into China:
“Similar to the trend that we see in the meat segment, we also expect to see an increase in higher-value dairy products such as cream, cheese and infant formula. The potential for Maersk Line to grow with this trade in the next decade is enormous.”
Outside of the Kotahi deal, the need to look ahead is also recognised by other shippers. Maersk Line and the Alliance Group enjoy a history of a strong working relationship, and the collaboration has recently been cemented in a long-term service contract, counting several global destinations. The deal will see Maersk Line as the principal carrier of the Alliance Group’s annual 4,800 TEU of frozen sheep meat, which is discharged at the North Chinese port of Dalian before being further processed and sold through wholesale or retail channels throughout the vast country.
The chilling potential
Chilled lamb, as opposed to its frozen form, is another animal altogether. Because of its freshness and quality, chilled lamb commands a premium price. However, the products have a shorter shelf life and require careful temperature control during storing and transportation. At the moment, due to regulatory controls and a lack of proper infrastructure, New Zealand meat exporters are not shipping chilled products to China.
Nevertheless, Maersk Line and the Alliance Group are collaborating closely on various reefer technology initiatives. The work includes trial shipments using Maersk Line’s QUEST II software, which focuses on product temperatures during transportation. Recently, remote container management (RCM) has also been tested for its ability to monitor temperature performance and allow Alliance to alter optimum temperatures during the voyage.
Thanks to this reefer innovation and its global service coverage, Maersk Line already commands a healthy share of Alliance’s chilled products to major markets in Europe and North America. Adding China to that list appears to be well within reach.
Murray Brown, General Manager of Marketing for the Alliance Group, sees chilled meat as the next potential growth surge in trade in China, where the evolution of the middle class means that sophisticated and seasoned shoppers – those able and willing to pay a premium for quality – will soon emerge as the dominant force.
“Right now most of our China exports involve high-value frozen sheep meat. China is a volume market at the moment. The next aspiration for this trade is probably to look for value such as chilled lamb,” Brown says.