Auckland Airport Cargo Monitor: Appetite for Easter lamb feeds airfreight growth

12 May 2020

Not even a worldwide COVID-19 outbreak could suppress the Northern Hemisphere appetite for a traditional lamb roast at Easter according to the latest air freight figures from Auckland Airport.

Data for the month of March shows a 20% year-on-year increase for chilled lamb flown to overseas markets, with triple digit growth into some European markets.

The first signs of COVID-19 impacting air cargo were showing through in March with volumes down 11% in March compared with 2019, but some products, such as lamb, were seeing good growth, said Scott Tasker, Auckland Airport General Manager Aeronautical Commercial.

“Traditionally lamb is exported by sea, but by using air freight exporters can capitalise on peak seasonal demand for high quality, chilled lamb products. The real advantage of air freight is that ability to hit markets within days, sometimes even hours, which makes it perfect for exporters of perishable products wanting to capture those demand opportunities,” he said.

A total of 941 tonnes of chilled lamb was flown to overseas markets, with some big growth into Canada (+63%).

Canada was also the destination of choice for live bees – honeybees and queen bees – with a 28% growth in volumes.

“That is really down to Air Canada’s new seasonal direct flight between Vancouver and Auckland adding cargo capacity. Most airfreight flies in and out of New Zealand in the belly-hold of passenger services, so any increase in route frequency or destinations has a much wider impact beyond tourism,” Tasker said.

A 28% drop in volumes to and from China was a big contributor to the 11% decline in air cargo during March.

“The lockdown in China and the closure of the border for mainland Chinese not only hit cargo capacity but flowed directly through into consumer demand for food ingredients, milk powder, fresh milk, lobsters and mussels.”

COVID-19 did fuel a 318% year-on-year growth in airfreighted respiratory equipment (exports +393% YoY, imports +68% YoY) and a 120% increase in the import of soap and cleaning products during March.

A scramble in New Zealand to prepare for lockdown was revealed in the airport’s air-cargo import data with increases in shampoo (390% YoY), soap and cleaning products (120%), perfume and cosmetics (22%), laptops (33%), computer monitors (43%) and headphones (28%).

Biggest movers (% YoY):


  1. Respiratory equipment +318%
  2. Capsicum (+47%)
  3. Blueberries (+26%)


  1. Food preparations (-40%)
  2. Sugar (-94%)
  3. Clothing (-26%)

Air freight fast facts:

  • 80% of airfreight to and from New Zealand is carried in the belly-hold of passenger aircraft, with the remaining 20% being carried by cargo-only air freighters
  • 20% of airfreight capacity provided by four air cargo-only operators
  • 86% of New Zealand’s airfreight volume operates from Auckland International Airport.


For further information please contact:

Helen Twose
Communicaitons Manager
+64 27 254 0790