Air cargo volumes fell 5.2% in March due to the effects of Omicron in Asia and the war in Ukraine, says the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The fall in demand follows growth slowing in February when demand was down on previous months but it benefited from manufacturing activity being ramped up following the early Lunar New Year.

In March, the war in Ukraine reduced capacity due to aircraft losses and sanctions against Russian airlines.

Sanctions against Russia disrupted manufacturing and rising oil prices are having a negative economic impact, including increasing shipping costs.

New export orders are shrinking in all markets except the US with the Purchasing Managers’ Index registering 48.2, the lowest since July 2020.

Global trade declined due to China’s economy growing slowly because of Covid-19 related lockdowns and supply chain disruptions amplified by the war in Ukraine.

Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA says the war and the spread of Omicron have led to rising energy costs, exacerbated supply chain disruptions and increased inflation, resulting in fewer goods being shipped.

He says: “Peace in Ukraine and a shift in China’s Covid-19 policy would do much to ease the industry’s headwinds. As neither appears likely in the short-term, we can expect growing challenges for air cargo just as passenger markets are accelerating their recovery.”

Asia Pacific airlines saw cargo volumes fall 5.1% with the zero-Covid policy in China and Hong Kong impacting performance.

North America was only down 0.7% but seasonally adjusted volumes for the Asia-North America market fell 9.2%.

Europe fell 11.1% in total and by 19.7% within the continent due to the war in Ukraine, labour shortages and lower manufacturing activity in Asia due to Omicron affecting demand.

The Middle East was down 9.7% and the benefits from traffic being redirected to avoid flying over Russia failed to materialise, likely due to subdued market demand.

Latin America was up 22.1% due to large airlines in the region benefiting from the end of bankruptcy protection. African airlines grew 3.1% in March.