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The AB side of the foreign trade industry: the order volume has doubled, the freight rate is high and the shipment is difficult

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“I’m a bit busy right now. The customer is inspecting the goods. I will talk to you in half an hour.” (Pseudonym) is slightly tired, but his tone also reveals joy.


With the continuous recovery of my country's foreign trade, it seems like Xiao Chen is busy taking orders, producing, and inspecting goods all day long. "Last year's export volume was about US$2 million, and this year is expected to reach US$10 million." A head of a crayfish export company told a reporter from the Securities Daily.


Judging from the increasing order volume, the foreign trade industry is indeed prosperous. However, shipping prices continue to rise, and containers are "difficult to find". Many foreign trade companies, especially small, medium and micro export companies, have to face the B side of the industry with poor logistics and high freight rates.


About an hour later, Xiao Chen called the reporter back. Talking about recent business, Xiao Chen said, “This year’s overall order situation is indeed much better than last year.” However, she changed her conversation. “Currently, there is a serious shortage of containers. Since last year, affected by the epidemic, many foreign containers cannot be returned. , Which makes it difficult for us to ship now. Nowadays, a 40HQ container costs at least 15,000 US dollars. We use FOB transaction method, and the freight is paid by the customer. Recently, there was a German order. Although the customer ordered the container, but thought it was expensive, they asked for it. Shipment is suspended. In addition, some foreign trade counterparts pay the freight themselves, and sometimes a box of goods does not cover the freight of a container."


The growth rate of foreign trade hit a 10-year high


BDI Index hits a new high this year


On August 23, Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao introduced at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office that from January to July this year, foreign trade continued to maintain a rapid growth momentum, with a growth rate of 24.5%, a record high in the past ten years. However, he also pointed out that the current foreign trade companies are also facing the "four difficulties"-the impact of transportation capacity and the rise of freight rates, the rise of commodities and raw materials, the pressure of the appreciation of the RMB exchange rate, and the increase of labor costs. For small and medium-sized foreign trade companies, it is even more difficult.


The reporter interviewed a number of foreign trade companies, and they all talked about the biggest difficulty currently facing the increase in freight rates. "Our company's international logistics costs are borne by the customer, but now the tight international logistics and high freight rates have caused interference to the company and the entire export industry, and there will be cases where customers request postponement of delivery." The staff of a listed company in the equipment manufacturing industry told reporters.


The increase in freight rates has the most direct manifestation in the relevant indicators of shipping prices. Recently, the Baltic Dry Bulk Index (BDI), which reflects the current market conditions, has continued to rise. The reporter's inquiries about relevant data show that since the third quarter, the BDI has been as low as 3039 points on July 16. From August 6th, BDI showed a continuous upward trend. It was 3371 points that day, and reached 4092 points as of August 20th. In other words, BDI rose by 721 points in half a month, an increase of 21.39%; if compared with the aforementioned low in July, it rose by 1053 points, an increase of 34.65%. On August 23, the index has further risen to 4147 points, setting a new high for the year.


In addition, according to the latest export container freight index released by the Shanghai Shipping Exchange on August 20, the Shanghai Export Container Index (SCFI) reached 4,340.18 points, a record high. Compared with the previous period (August 13), it rose by 58.65 points, an increase of 1.37%; compared with last year's lowest point of 818 points, an increase of 430.6%. The China Export Container Index (CCFI) was 3,047.32 points, which also hit a record high. Compared with the previous period's 2978.47 points, an increase of 2.3%, compared with last year's lowest point of 834 points, an increase of 265.4%.


Supply and demand mismatch


Lead to bottlenecks in capacity


"The fundamental reason for the increase in international freight rates and container prices is the mismatch of supply and demand." Tao Jin, deputy director of the Macroeconomic Research Center of the Suning Institute of Finance, said in an interview with a reporter from the Securities Daily that the current international trade is picking up with the recovery of the global economy. , Transportation demand is expanding, but the supply of shipping capacity is difficult to effectively increase due to the repeated global epidemic. At present, some ports are experiencing congestion. Anti-epidemic inspections have aggravated containers and cargo piled up in ports. The efficiency of port dredging has decreased, and this has caused delays and congestion in subsequent land and inland water transport. The capacity has been further reduced, which intensified the fluctuation of freight rates in the short term.


In fact, in the second half of last year, there was a situation of "sky-rocketing boxes" and a sharp increase in freight rates. Liu Xiangdong, deputy director of the Economic Research Department of the China Center for International Economic Exchange, told reporters that the difference from last year is that this year, affected by the economic stimulus policies of various countries, the demand side has recovered, especially in North America, where demand has surged, and the supply and demand connection has bottlenecked in capacity. That is, the logistics supply chain has encountered difficulties, coupled with the limited capacity of overseas infrastructure, the market capacity has not shown signs of growth, and the actual cargo capacity and transportation efficiency have generally declined.


At the same time, with the increase in the number of ships, the congestion in the port has been aggravated, and the delays in shipping schedules caused by the congestion have been superimposed, which has caused freight rates to rise, even exceeding the value of low value-added products.


In Liu Xiangdong’s view, the limited capacity has restricted the fulfillment of my country’s export orders. Although delivery delays can be adopted, it cannot fundamentally improve the efficiency of the supply chain. For this reason, it is necessary to speed up the resolution of port congestion, except for updates and upgrades. In addition to port infrastructure and supporting facilities, it is necessary to make full use of digital and information technology to enhance the automation of port operations and solve the problem of port vessel congestion in an orderly manner. In addition, it is possible to increase the conversion of multiple intermodal transportation methods. Ports around the world should strengthen the coordination of supply chains and propose comprehensive logistics solutions.


Tao Jin also holds the same view. He believes that it is necessary to strengthen short-, medium- and long-term plans and plans for transportation capacity, and attach importance to the improvement of port efficiency, so as to increase transportation capacity and form further support for the recovery of foreign trade.


The peak time of freight rate is unknown


Small, medium and micro enterprises need support from many aspects


Faced with the situation that the increase in freight rates may lead to restrictions on operations, some companies have planned ahead of time. The reporter noticed that a listed company with a subsidiary engaged in the cross-border e-commerce industry responded to a question on “The current increase in shipping and container prices on the cross-border sales of subsidiaries” in the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. , Overseas warehouses and FBA warehouses. For overseas warehouses, since May this year, ocean shipping prices have continued to rise. In March and April, overseas warehouses have more stocks. During the period from May to August, there are fewer shipments from overseas warehouses, which reduces the impact of rising shipping prices on the company to a certain extent. Impact. The FBA warehouses and domestic warehouses are mainly air transported and dedicated lines. Compared with ocean freight prices, air freight prices have a smaller increase and are less affected.


The overseas warehouse model of cross-border e-commerce has also recently received strong support from the policy level. On July 9, 2021, the General Office of the State Council issued the "Opinions on Accelerating the Development of New Forms and New Models of Foreign Trade", clarifying a series of measures to support the development of cross-border e-commerce and supporting logistics, including: improving cross-border e-commerce development support policies, Solidly promote the construction of a comprehensive pilot zone for cross-border e-commerce, cultivate a group of outstanding overseas warehouse enterprises, and improve the global overseas warehouse network.


In response to the current difficulties faced by foreign trade companies, Wang Wentao said at the aforementioned press conference that a series of measures will be taken to stabilize market players and stabilize orders. On the one hand, we must vigorously promote the development of new formats and models of foreign trade, such as cross-border e-commerce, support the export of high-tech, high-quality, and high-value-added products, and increase the overseas promotion of Chinese brands. On the other hand, it is necessary to ensure the smooth flow of the foreign trade industry chain and supply chain. In addition, it is necessary to deepen international economic and trade cooperation.


Regarding how long this round of freight rate increases will continue, Liu Xiangdong believes that it depends on the degree of global epidemic prevention and control. "If the global epidemic continues, the problem of port congestion and ship delays will continue, which requires more port modification automation tools. , To solve the dilemma of the shortage of overseas labor and the hoarding of a large number of vacant containers overseas; if the epidemic can be effectively controlled in the short term and the port's handling capacity is improved, it is expected that this round of freight rate increases will soon peak."


However, for the moment, small, medium and micro foreign trade companies are still facing a large shortage of capacity supply and pressure on freight costs, which in turn causes some companies to face the difficult situation of "the value of goods cannot reach the freight price". In this regard, Liu Xiangdong suggested that at the policy level, temporary tax incentives and subsidies can be adopted to enhance the ability of small, medium and micro foreign trade enterprises to resist external risks; at the technical level, digital technology should also be fully utilized to speed up the empty container turnover rate and solve the problem. With regard to the return of empty containers, market mechanisms have been used to guide freight rates to gradually fall.