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The current situation in the global shipping industry is complex, as container rates are experiencing a significant decline, with contract rates moving closer to spot rates. This trend is evident in different regions, such as China and Southeast Asia, despite the decline in container rates, the demand for shipping remains weak due to global inflation and restricted demand, leading to a significant drop in freight prices.

The long-term outlook for the shipping industry remains uncertain, as the low consumer demand in North Europe and the slow market pickup in China suggest that the shipping industry will continue to struggle. Container prices in major ports across Asia, such as Ningbo, Shanghai, and Singapore, have fallen sharply in the past year, indicating that the current situation may persist in the foreseeable future.

Furthermore, the decline in exports to the US and the EU in 2022, coupled with the increase in trade with Russia, may result in a shift in trade routes and patterns. Although China recorded a trade surplus in 2022, it was largely due to strong export growth in the first quarter of the year, which slowed down as the year progressed. The slow pace of exports and outbound container volumes is expected to continue into the first quarter of 2023, as forecasted by Container xChange.

“Container trends are a crucial barometer of economic progress and global trade, and the current market outlook appears bleak. Container prices and leasing rates are plummeting, with the global shipping industry witnessing a freefall in container rates. The blank sailings have not been able to control the sliding prices, and the mid-term outlook for the industry indicates a slowdown in container trade on Asia to EU and Asia to America trade lane. However, contract rates are closer to spot rates, indicating the lack of demand for long-term commitments, which can be attributed to market uncertainty.”, said Mr. Christian Roeloffs, CEO & Co-Founder, of Container xChange.

“Intra-Asia trade is showing some resilience, with comparatively better demand for containers. Nonetheless, the mid-term outlook does not project demand to rise to the heightened levels witnessed in 2020 and 2021, except for a possible inventory replenishment cycle that may bring about some demand for containers. The falling rates and increased availability of containers in certain regions of the world are indicative of weak demand and slower economic growth.”, he added.

In summary, the global shipping industry is facing a complex situation, with a freefall in container rates, weak demand, and a shift in trade routes. While the shipping industry may witness a rebound in the future, the current outlook remains uncertain.


  1. China container trade market struggles with slow market pickup

Container volumes and rates remain low after Chinese New Year, signalling a shift in the shipping industry. By October 2022, an oversupply of containers had led to carriers wanting to offload their inventory. However, due to global inflation and restricted demand, spot rates, contract rates, and container prices have sharply fallen, with one major Asia-US route experiencing an 80% drop in freight prices.

Additionally, container rates remain low, with Asia-US West Coast rates in January 2023 being 11% lower than in January 2020 and Asia-US East Coast rates in January 2023 being 84% lower than in January 2022.

in addition to Asia-US shipping routes, consumer demand in North Europe is unlikely to improve soon. The average pick-up rates from China to ports in North Europe remain low, with 20ft container rates averaging $861 and 40ft HC rates averaging $823 until January. In January 2022, the average pickup charge for a 40HC on the same route was over $3,000. 

After comparing the prices of a 20-foot cargo-worthy container in the top three ports of Asia – Ningbo, Shanghai, and Singapore – to their prices in January 2022, we observed a significant decline in all three ports. The average price in Ningbo decreased from $2,460 to $1,290, while in Shanghai it fell from $2,370 to $1,270, and in Singapore it went down from $2,410 to $1,240.

In January 2023, the average cost of a 20-foot container in Northeast Asia was $1,300, while it was $1,250 in Southeast Asia. The graph below indicates the average prices of 40-foot containers.

  • China’s 2022 exports to US and EU weaken, trade with Russia hits record

Despite these challenges, China recorded a trade surplus in 2022, which grew by 29.7% from the previous year. However, this growth was largely due to the strong export growth in the first quarter of the year, which slowed down as the year progressed, particularly after central banks increased interest rates to tackle inflation.

Container xChange predicts that export growth and outbound container volumes will remain low in the first quarter of 2023. While exports to the US and the EU declined in 2022, exports to Russia increased by 8.3%. 

According to GAC, goods trade between China and Russia reached 1.28 trillion yuan ($190 billion) in 2022, a 30% rise from 2021, largely due to China’s purchases of oil and coal from Russia. By November 2022, Russia had surpassed Saudi Arabia as China’s top crude oil supplier.

On our leasing platform, we found that as of January 17, the average pick-up rate for leasing a container from Shanghai to Moscow was $832. It was $2,425 in January 2022. 

In Shanghai, the price of the box itself (all types and conditions) has been steadily dropping. In January, the average price of a cargo worthy 40ft DC was $1,712. And the average price of the same in Moscow until December was $1,710. 


  • Average container prices see a major slump of 32% Y-O-Y in South-east Asia

Average container prices in Southeast Asia sees a 32% Y-O-Y drop from $3,798 in January 2022 to 2,590 January 2023. 


Pickup charges ex South-east Asia sees a dip of 78% from $311 in December 2022 to $67 in January 2023. 


On the South-east Asia-US trade route, the average pickup charges dropped by a 6.38% in January 2023.

Central Asia saw a 36% rise in average container prices for trading, followed by a 5.25% increase in North-East Asia, whereas South-East Asia saw a 6.25% drop in January 2023.


cheese market

Rapid Urbanization and Westernization of Diets in Asia Propel the Cheese Market

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘Asia – Cheese – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

Although cheese consumption in Asia remains lower than in Europe and the U.S., the westernization of food habits of the Asian population leads to an increase in demand, especially from young more exposed to fast-foods. The boosting online sales channel and an early shift from the lockdown in China offset the negative impact of the Covid crisis on HoReCa and retail. 

Key Trends and Insights

Cheese consumption in Asia remains low compared with Western countries because the Asian population is more disposed to suffer from lactose intolerance, and there is a lack of established cheese production and consumption culture.

The process of rapid urbanization in Asia, combined with the rise in household incomes and the increasing popularity of the Western lifestyle amongst the middle- and high-income population, promote the cheese market. The increasing consumption of pizza and other European-style fast-foods appears as a fundamental consumer trend, particularly amongst young people. Thus, the cheese market in Asia is concentrated in large cities, where the average-high income segment of the population mainly lives. For the above reasons, and due to the growing population, IndexBox expects the Asian cheese market to expand with an anticipated CAGR of +1.4% from 2020 to 2030, which is projected to bring the market volume to 3.4M tonnes.

Imports buoy over 40% of cheese consumption in Asia. Although an increase in the demand is forecast in the medium term, the possibility of a sharp surge in output remains limited due to the lack of pasture land to expand milk production. High costs for producing cheese in Asia could become another restraining factor. China’s cheese costs may exceed those in the UK or U.S. near twofold.

The spread of Covid-19, to a certain extent, disrupted trade chains in Asia but did not impact dramatically on the major consumption trends. In 2020, cheese imports in China, Iraq, and Korea rose significantly despite the pandemic restrictions.

China constitutes the largest producer and consumer of cheese in Asia. Still, the per capita consumption remains significantly lower than in the other Asian major cheese-consuming countries and tangibly lower than in the U.S. or Europe. This indicates a weak market saturation and a robust potential for market growth. The rising demand in China, driven by rapid urbanization and a middle-class expansion, is to continue driving the Asian cheese market.

Cheese imports by the Republic of Korea have been increasing steadily, buoyed by a sharp increase in consumer demand for packaged meals containing cheese and rising demand from the food processing industry. Moreover, tariff reductions and increased tariff-rate quotas have lowered cheese prices, boosting imports.

Developed countries, such as Japan and Israel, are set to indicate only weak market growth. Per capita cheese consumption is already high, the population is stagnating, and there are currently no prerequisites for any sharp changes in consumer preferences. In Japan, the free trade agreement with the EU entered into force in 2019, which improves the availability of European cheese against that from Australia and New Zealand. In 2020, imports into Japan slightly decreased owing to reduced consumer purchasing power, which falls disproportionately on high-priced milk products such as cheese.

In the Middle East, moderate growth of the cheese market is forecast, driven by similar trends of the gradual rise in household incomes and the penetration of a western lifestyle. A certain potential remains relevant for the markets of Syria and Iraq, should both countries recover from the instability of recent years.

Albeit not affecting the market fundamentals dramatically, the pandemic led to significant shifts in sales channels. During the HoReCa sector was hampered by the lockdown, online sales emerged rapidly. Cheese is widely used in Western-style fast-foods that could keep the take-away services in operation, which mitigated the negative effect of the pandemic. China shifted from the pandemic earlier than other countries, which also contributes to the market recovery.

Cheese Consumption by Country

In 2020, the Asian cheese market increased by 0.6% to $12.1B, rising for the fourth year in a row after two years of decline. The market value increased at an average annual rate of +1.5% over 2012 to 2020. The most prominent growth rate was recorded in 2017 when the market value increased by 9% year-to-year. Over the period under review, the market reached the maximum level in 2020 and is likely to see gradual growth in years to come.

The countries with the highest volumes of cheese consumption in 2020 were China (506K tonnes), Japan (377K tonnes) and Iran (316K tonnes), with a combined 41% share of total consumption. These countries were followed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Myanmar, South Korea, Syrian Arab Republic, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates, which accounted for a further 41%.

From 2012 to 2020, the most notable growth rate in terms of cheese consumption, amongst the main consuming countries, was attained by South Korea, while cheese consumption for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, the largest cheese markets in Asia were China ($2.1B), Japan ($1.7B) and Israel ($1.1B), with a combined 41% share of the total market. These countries were followed by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Myanmar, South Korea, Syrian Arab Republic, Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates and Kazakhstan, which accounted for a further 42%.

In 2020, the highest levels of cheese per capita consumption were registered in Israel (19 kg per person), followed by Azerbaijan (7 kg per person), Saudi Arabia (6.19 kg per person) and the Syrian Arab Republic (4.74 kg per person), while the world average per capita consumption of cheese was estimated at 0.62 kg per person.

Cheese Imports by Country

In 2020, Japan (292K tonnes), distantly followed by Saudi Arabia (181K tonnes), South Korea (148K tonnes) and China (129K tonnes), represented the largest importers of cheese, together committing 61% of total imports. The United Arab Emirates (52K tonnes), the Philippines (41K tonnes), Malaysia (35K tonnes), Kazakhstan (34K tonnes), Taiwan (Chinese) (34K tonnes), Kuwait (29K tonnes), Indonesia (27K tonnes), Jordan (25K tonnes) and Yemen (20K tonnes) followed a long way behind the leaders.

From 2012 to 2020, the most notable growth rate in terms of purchases amongst the key importing countries was attained by China, while imports for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, Japan ($1.3B), Saudi Arabia ($683M) and South Korea ($629M) appeared to be the countries with the highest levels of imports in 2020, with a combined 49% share of total imports. China, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Taiwan (Chinese), Kuwait, the Philippines, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Jordan and Yemen lagged somewhat behind, accounting for 34% (IndexBox estimates).

Source: IndexBox AI Platform