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Pandemic’s impact on imports easing, but numbers are still below last year

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Pandemic's impact on imports easing, but numbers are still below last year. Image: Pexels
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The impact of COVID-19 at major U.S. retail container ports appears to be easing slightly, with projected imports remaining below last year’s levels but not as much as previously forecast, according to the Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“The numbers we’re seeing are still below last year, but are better than what we expected a month ago,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “It may still be too soon to say but we’ll take that as a sign that the situation could be slowly starting to improve. Consumers want to get back to shopping, and as more people get back to work, retailers want to be sure their shelves are stocked.”

“Imports are erratic, with one month up and the next down,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “Getting 40 million people back to work will take time, especially with many fearful of catching the virus and staying home. That makes a rapid return to an economic boom unlikely.”

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.61 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in April, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 7.8 percent from a year earlier, but up 17 percent from a four-year low seen in March and significantly better than the 1.51 million TEU previously expected. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

May was estimated at 1.58 million TEU, down 14.6 percent year-over-year, but up from the 1.47 million TEU forecast a month ago. June is forecast at 1.56 million TEU, down 12.9 percent from last year but up from the previous forecast of 1.46 million TEU, while July is forecast at 1.62 million TEU, down 17.4 percent from last year but up from 1.58 million TEU previously expected. August is forecast at 1.71 million TEU, just below the 1.73 million TEU expected a month ago and down 12.9 percent from last year, while September is forecast at 1.66 million TEU, slightly lower than the 1.7 million TEU expected a month ago and down 11.3 percent from last year. October, which was not previously forecast, is expected to total 1.73 million TEU, down 7.9 percent from last year. That would mark the first time since April that the year-over-year decline would drop from double digits to single digits.

Imports for the six-month period from April through September are expected to total 9.74 million TEU, a 3 percent improvement from the 9.46 million TEU expected a month ago.

The first half of 2020 is forecast to total 9.46 million TEU, down 10 percent from the same period last year but better than the 9.15 million TEU expected a month ago. Before the extent of the pandemic was known, the first half of the year was forecast at 10.47 million TEU.

Imports during 2019 totaled 21.6 million TEU, a 0.8 percent decrease from 2018 amid the trade war with China but still the second-highest year on record.

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Impex

The European Commission and the UK signed a Brexit deal 

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The European Commission and the UK signed a Brexit deal. Image: Unsplash
The European Commission and the UK signed a Brexit deal. Image: Unsplash
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The European Commission has reached today an agreement with the United Kingdom on the terms of its future cooperation with the European Union.

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said: “It was worth fighting for this deal because we now have a fair and balanced agreement with the UK, which will protect our European interests, ensure fair competition, and provide much-needed predictability for our fishing communities. Finally, we can leave Brexit behind us and look to the future. Europe is now moving on.”

The European Commission’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, said: “We have now come to the end of a very intensive four-year period, particularly over the past nine months, during which we negotiated the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU and a brand new partnership, which we have finally agreed today. The protection of our interests has been front and center throughout these negotiations and I am pleased that we have managed to do so. It is now for the European Parliament and the Council to have their say on this agreement.”

The draft Trade and Cooperation Agreement consists of three main pillars:

  • A Free Trade Agreement: a new economic and social partnership with the United Kingdom
  • The agreement covers not just trade in goods and services, but also a broad range of other areas in the EU’s interest, such as investment, competition, State aid, tax transparency, air and road transport, energy and sustainability, fisheries, data protection, and social security coordination.
  • It provides for zero tariffs and zero quotas on all goods that comply with the appropriate rules of origin.
  • Both parties have committed to ensuring a robust level playing field by maintaining high levels of protection in areas such as environmental protection, the fight against climate change and carbon pricing, social and labour rights, tax transparency, and State aid, with effective, domestic enforcement, a binding dispute settlement mechanism and the possibility for both parties to take remedial measures.
  • The EU and the UK agreed on a new framework for the joint management of fish stocks in the EU and UK waters. The UK will be able to further develop British fishing activities, while the activities and livelihoods of European fishing communities will be safeguarded, and natural resources preserved.
  • On transport, the agreement provides for continued and sustainable air, road, rail, and maritime connectivity, though market access falls below what the Single Market offers. It includes provisions to ensure that competition between EU and UK operators takes place on a level playing field, so that passenger rights, workers’ rights, and transport safety are not undermined.
  • On energy, the agreement provides a new model for trading and interconnectivity, with guarantees for open and fair competition, including on safety standards for offshore, and production of renewable energy.
  • On social security coordination, the agreement aims at ensuring a number of rights of EU citizens and UK nationals. This concerns EU citizens working in, traveling, or moving to the UK and to UK nationals working in, traveling, or moving to the EU after 1st January 2021.
  • Finally, the agreement enables the UK’s continued participation in a number of flagship EU programs for the period 2021-2027 (subject to a financial contribution by the UK to the EU budget), such as Horizon Europe.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement covers a number of areas that are in the EU’s interest. It goes well beyond traditional free trade agreements and provides a solid basis for preserving our longstanding friendship and cooperation. It safeguards the integrity of the Single Market and the indivisibility of the Four Freedoms (people, goods, services, and capital). It reflects the fact that the UK is leaving the EU’s ecosystem of common rules, supervision, and enforcement mechanisms, and can therefore no longer enjoy the benefits of EU membership or the Single Market.  Nevertheless, the Agreement will by no means match the significant advantages that the UK enjoyed as a Member State of the EU.

Even with the new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement in place, there will be big changes on 1 January 2021.

On that date, the UK will leave the EU Single Market and Customs Union, as well as all EU policies and international agreements. The free movement of persons, goods, services, and capital between the UK and the EU will end.

The EU and the UK will form two separate markets; two distinct regulatory and legal spaces. This will create barriers to trade in goods and services and to cross-border mobility and exchanges that do not exist today – in both directions.

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Impex

India and US in negotiations to make a trade deal

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India and US in negotiations to make a trade deal. Image: Pixabay
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India and the US are in negotiations to make a trade agreement. The  Commerce and Industry Minister Shri Piyush Goyal has invited the United States commercial enterprises to take the bilateral exchange to new heights. Addressing the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) via a digital convention, ShriGoyal stated that the 2 democracies percentage deep dedication with each other, on the Government, Business and those to people to people levels.

Both nations trust in free and fair trade and the United States is India’s biggest buying and selling partner. He said that going beyond trade, in this interconnected world, the two nations can be the resilient trusted partners in the global value chain.

He further indicated to the members of US-India Strategic Partnership Forum about the initiatives taken by the government to facilitate industry and investments. He said that a GIS-enabled land bank has been launched on pilot basis, with six states on board, which will help the investors in identifying the land and location. 

India is ready to sign an initial limited trade package, and it is upto the US to move ahead, he said. 

The US is eager for a deal in advance of its presidential elections in November and had indicated that a preliminary deal ought to encompass recuperation of the GSP advantages to India and marketplace entry for each other’s agricultural products. India has demanded exemption from excessive obligations imposed on steel , aluminium products and its farm products, even as the United States is looking to have a  market entry  for its farm production, merchandise and clinical devices. 

He said, the trade deal has challenges but also a number of opportunities. This could be a foundational exchange deal on the way to deepen our engagement going forward.

 

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Food Logistics

India ranks first in number of organic farmers and Sikkim becomes first state in the world to become fully organic

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India ranks first in number of organic farmers and Sikkim becomes first state in the world to become fully organic. Image: Pixabay
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As the global pandemic situation continues the demand for access to good quality food is on the rise and it’s a high priority to India. In a very recent official statement from the government, India ranks first within the number of organic farmers and ninth in terms of area under organic farming. Also Sikkim became the first state in the world to become fully organic and other states such as Tripura and Uttarakhand have similar goals.

With the aim of aiding farmers to adopt organic farming and improve remunerations, government had introduced two dedicated programs specifically Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD) and Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) were launched in 2015 to encourage organic farming. 

The major organic exports from India are flax seeds, sesame, soybean, tea, medicinal plants, rice and pulses, which were instrumental in driving an rise of nearly 50% in organic exports in 2018-19, touching Rs 5151 crore. 

Modest commencement of exports from Assam, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland to UK, USA, Swaziland and Italy have proved the potential by increasing volumes and expanding to new destinations because the demand for health foods increases.

Both Mission Organic Value Chain Development and Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana are promoting certification under  Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) and National Program for Organic Production (NPOP) respectively targeting local and international markets. 

Before making a purchase a consumer should look for the logos of FSSAI, Jaivik Bharat / PGS Organic India on the produce to ascertain the organic authenticity of the product. This can be a very important element of an organic produce. 

Presently, the commodities with highest potential include ginger, turmeric, black rice, spices, nutri cereals, pineapples, medicinal plants, buckwheat, bamboo shoots, etc. Supplies of organic produce has started from the north eastern region including for Mother Dairy from Meghalaya, Revanta Foods and Big Basket from Manipur. 

The organic e-commerce platform www.jaivikkheti.in is being strengthened for directly linking farmers with retail as well as bulk buyers. Infusion of digital technology in a much bigger way has been a major takeaway during the pandemic period.

Indian organic farmers will soon be reinforcing the top place in the global agriculture trade. 

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