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With a slight increase of the economy, air cargo transport shows signs of improvement in 2017 Volume of cargo transported in Brazilian market rose 7.2% from January to June this year

  • This story won the journalism award of the Brazilian Association of Airlines (Abear) in 2017

July 27, 2017 - SÃO PAULO - The first months of 2017 breathed new life into the cargo air transportation sector in Brazil, which has suffered consecutive falls in the last three years. Last year, 419 thousand tons were transported in the domestic market - the same level of 2009, according to the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC). But the expectation of the Brazilian Association of Airlines (Abear) is that the demand will increase by 170 thousand tons by 2022. In the first half of this year, Abear indicates that the increase in the volume handled reached 7.2%.

Ideal for valuable loads such as electronics, medicines, refrigerated products, this type of transport grows according to both local and global economy. According to Abear, GDP variations account for 85% of the changes in demand for air cargo transportation.

The main cargo airport in Brazil is Viracopos, located in Campinas, São Paulo, responsible for 40% of air cargo transportation. In addition to high value-added items, live loads and other products of animal and plant origin, such as seeds and semen, are shipped there.

In 2016, 166.5 thousand tons of cargo went through Viracopos airport, almost 9% less than the transported in 2015. Photo: Paulo Palma Beraldo/De Olho no Campo

One of the most frequent exports is chicken genetic material. In the first half of this year, Brazil exported 408 tonnes of one-day-old chicks and 5.550 units of fertile eggs, according to the Brazilian Animal Protein Association (ABPA). The figures are, respectively, 27% and 12% higher than those recorded in the same period of last year.

"In addition to the main supplier of chicken meat, Brazil has become a platform for exporting genetic material and is a very promising market", says Ariel Mendes, director of ABPA's poultry division. "Our genetic material is capable of developing poultry with optimum productivity", adds. About 10% of the chicken produced worldwide has genetics from Brazil and there is a rising expectation of growth with the opening of new markets such as China and Central America, says Ariel Mendes.

Cargo flow depends closely on the national and global economy to grow. Photo: Paulo Palma Beraldo/De Olho no Campo

The main purchasers of chicks in the first semester were Paraguay (59%), Ecuador (15%) and Peru (6%). Meanwhile, imports of fertile eggs went to Senegal (27%), Paraguay (20%) and United Arab Emirates (19%). It is from Viracopos airport that most of the fertile eggs and chicks come out to more than 50 countries.

"ALL THIS TRANSPORT IS MADE BY AIRCRAFTs BECAUSE THE LOAD IS FRAGILE AND PERCEIVABLE", EXPLAINS ANDRÉ MARCONDES, HEAD OF THE UNIT OF THE INTERNATIONAL AGRICULTURAL SURVEILLANCE SYSTEM (VIGIAGRO) OF THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AT THE VIRACOPOS AIRPORT.
Fertile eggs being conferred by federal tax auditors of the International Agricultural Surveillance (Vigiagro), in Viracopos airport. Photos: Paulo Palma Beraldo/De Olho no Campo

Marcondes emphasizes that the work Vigiagro involves several phases: contact with the country that will receive the product, dispatching, collection of samples for analysis in the laboratory, analysis and verification of documents, approval by the Revenue Federal and then, the release. "We try to give dynamism, but always fulfilling all the requirements, because it is a work of a lot of responsibility".

The Vigiragro from Viracopos airport is one of the 110 units that control the flow of animal and vegetable products in Brazil. In 2016, there were almost 25 thousand applications for entry and exit of products of plant and animal origin only in Viracopos unit. Fernando Mendes, general coordinator of Vigiagro, says that the goal of the system, distributed throughout the country in airports, ports and in the borders, is to ensure that imports and exports meet health requirements to avoid diseases and possible damage to the Brazilian economy.

Jason Sinclair, spokesman for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), says that digitizing the whole chain, without the use of so many papers, and adopting fully electronic air cargo guides, are key to the development of the industry.

In passenger airplanes, basements are used to accommodate loads. Photo: Paulo Palma Beraldo

"In the world, the freight industry has been slower to modernize compared to passenger transport", says Sinclair. For him, it is necessary to use more and more data and adopt modern quality standards. "Everything aiming to facilitate the safety and efficiency of operations, especially with dangerous loads".

This year, cargo trade grew every month in Latin America compared to last year. The region accounts for 2.8% of global freight transport, but has potential to grow. The main areas are Asia Pacific with 37.4% and Europe with 23.5%, according to IATA.

The engineer Adalberto Febeliano, vice-president of the company Modern Logistics, is one of the investors of this market. He says that the aerial sector only accounts for 0.4% of freight transportation in Brazil. "It could be much larger. In countries with similar dimensions, such as Canada, Australia and the United States, this number reaches 4%", says. His company offers "integrated logistics": air services, warehousing and also road transport.

According to Anac, Brazil had 498 aircrafts in 2016 - only 20 were adapted for cargo loads. In general, these aircrafts have served to the transport of passengers, but have aged. So it is cheaper to adapt them than to get new planes.

Freight aircraft have structures adapted to receive the loads, a process that is carried out with the aid of machines. Photo: Paulo Palma Beraldo

Febeliano says that most companies use only the basements of passenger aircrafts to carry cargo, which causes an inadequate supply. Although the number of passengers has tripled since 2002, reaching 88.7 million in 2016, cargoes in basements are limited in weight and size. Besides that, they should be divided into smaller parts because the work is manual, unlike adapted aircrafts that allow mechanization.

Most domestic cargo flights serve the São Paulo-Manaus route, linking the main consumer market in Latin America to an a region that is known for its electronics production. "The rest of the country does not have regular air cargo", says Febeliano. "You can not think of a country like Brazil without air transport. If we make a bullet train from Porto Alegre to Manaus, it would still take two and a half days to arrive".

Inside view of a freighter plane. Photo: Paulo Palma Beraldo/De Olho no Campo

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