Soaring demand for chips, vaccines and gourmet food at home and overseas helped Taiwan’s China Airlines Ltd. post its best-ever cargo performance in 2021, with exports from the island also jumping to a record.
China Airlines posted cargo revenue of NT$124.5 billion ($4.5 billion) in 2021, according to Bloomberg calculation based on company statements to the Taiwan Stock Exchange. That was still lower than analysts’ average estimate of NT$136 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The cargo revenue for the year was the highest in the unit’s 62-year history, China Airlines said in a statement Tuesday.
China Airlines is responsible for the vast majority of air cargo out of Taiwan, operating 21 freighters compared with its main rival EVA Airways Corp.’s six. Apart from demand for vaccines as new variants of Covid keep emerging, the airline also benefited as companies around the globe scrambled to secure crucial electronics components like semiconductors amid a global shortage. Taiwanese firms such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. have a near monopoly on such parts.
Taiwan’s exports also soared to a record $446.5 billion in 2021, more than $100 billion higher than the previous year, primarily due to strong demand for technology products and electronic components. The government sees the growth momentum continuing in the current quarter.
In addition to chips, China Airlines carried auto parts, vehicles, high-precision wafer machinery and even machines for mining digital currency. Shortages in sea cargo capacity meant that items bought online and textiles that traditionally went by sea now moved to air, the airline said.
The airline also transported bulk quantities of perishable items, including lobsters from North America and Australia, melons from Japan, grapes from California, and yogurt and honey from Australia, as demand for gourmet food surged at home due to a lack of overseas travel, the company said. It also carried items like fitness equipment, vacuum cleaners and gaming consoles spurred by more people working from home.
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