WITH the International Freight Assistance Mechanism set to end in the middle of this year, exporters, especially smaller exporters, need a cost-effective way to get goods to market.

Enter Tigers International Solutions which is launching a new initiative to support Western Australian producers export their goods by sea freight to Singapore. Rather than needing to fill a full container themselves, producers who have similar temperature requirements will be allocated space on a shared container.

A statement from Tigers said the idea was borne out of necessity, as many perishable food exporters have been affected by significant disruption to global air travel due to COVID-19, as well as skyrocketing freight rates.

Tiger International Solutions general manager Jason Radford told DCN the idea has been well received by exporters and it should be particularly attractive to exporters with small consignments, or larger exporters looking to access the Singapore market ad a discount to using air freight.

“It’s going to give smaller exporters an option, so they don’t have to pay air freight,” he said.

“it’s also going to give larger exporters another option as well, if they have smaller consignments.”

Mr Radford said, if successful, the initiative could be expanded to Hong Kong and Bangkok next. He said seafood exporters had shown particular interest in the idea, especially for frozen food.

“With frozen, you can go anywhere in the world due to its shelf life,” he said.

The first six-week trial of this new service will commence on 9 April from Fremantle to Singapore.

Austrade state director for Western Australia Jane Caforio said because of the impact on supply chains caused by COVID-19, Austrade has been encouraging producers and freight forwarders to innovate and co-operate.

“This is a great example of what can be achieved,” Ms Caforio said.

“Tigers are bringing fresh thinking to the way we export fresh produce with a direct benefit to smaller producers and our WA farming communities. We will certainly be following this trial with keen interest.”

Jim Trandos from WA Corn Growers said the increase in the cost of air freight since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to maintain profitability of exports.

“We’ve continued sending our corn to our customers in Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai as we see export as really important to our business long term, but we’ve had to absorb most of the extra cost of freight to keep the sales going,” Mr Trandos said.

“IFAM has definitely helped us to hang in there for the last 12 months or so but we really need to be looking at all the options as there are no signs of air freight rates falling anytime soon. We don’t use sea freight at the moment but if we were confident of our product arriving to our customers in good condition it’s something we’d be happy to trial.”

The initiative builds on investments made by state and federal governments since the beginning of the pandemic, including the Singapore Airfreight Pilot Project (an initiative of the WA government), and the federally funded International Freight Assistance Mechanism.