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Demand to ship fresh food across the oceans is twice as high as it is for other products, according to ship analyst Drewry.
The reason is twofold: Refrigerated containers known as “reefers” can keep food fresh for more than a month, allowing distributors to safely send everything from orange juice to lobsters around the world. In the past, those trips were mostly reserved for bananas because only major distributors like Chiquita Brands International Inc. could afford to hire cargo ships with large refrigerated spaces.
Meanwhile, the growing affluence of the global population, especially in Asia, has boosted demand for more-expensive foods.
“For the growing middle class, basic food like rice is no longer enough,” said Eric Legros, head of reefer operations at French shipping giant CMA CGM. “They want their fruit, vegetables and fresh meat, and that’s pushing the industry to move more and more products under cold management.”
Refrigerated boxes make up 7 percent of total container volumes, but demand increased by 5 to 6 percent annually over the past five years, compared with 2 to 3 percent for regular containers that move almost all of the world’s manufactured goods, according to Drewry.
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