China has become the second most important non-European Union trading partner for Manchester Airports Group (MAG) airports, with markets in Asia making up most of the top five markets.
According to figures released by the group, which operates Bournemouth Airport, East Midlands Airport, Manchester Airport and London Stansted Airport, exports to China have grown 358 per cent in 10 years to £406 million ($515 million) in the half year from April to September 2016, while imports are up grew 250 per cent to £531 million over the same period.
It says the most valuable UK export to China is medicine while the most valuable imports are mobile phone components and SD cards.
The US remains the biggest market, with exports up 92 per cent to £2.9 billion and imports rising 17 per cent to £3.2 billion. Exports to Qatar have boomed; in 2006 MAG airports exported £8 million to the Gulf state but this had grown by 6,190 per cent to £377 million during the six month period.
MAG’s cargo income has continued to benefit from growth in e-commerce and internet shopping, with integrated express carriers expanding their operations and contributing to 3.8 per cent growth in revenue during the first half of the financial year.
MAG’s cargo operation has also been bolstered by new direct flights launched by Etihad at East Midlands and Stansted. MAG says its airports are ready to provide the capacity which will be demanded by freight operators as other airports in the South East fill up over the coming 10-15 years.
MAG head of cargo, Conan Busby says: “Global trade has never been more critical and these figures demonstrate the growing importance of having good quality air links to our key trading partners.”
“When you look at a market like Qatar, where we are now sending over £60m worth of high value cargo every month, the importance of efficient and direct air links is easy to see.”
He says the UK government needs to help the air cargo industry and Heathrow Airport’s capacity is limited. Busby also adds: “Brexit may make trucking goods out of the country to fly from mainland Europe more difficult, so it is important that these facilities are nurtured and helped to compete and thrive.”