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At the end of the first quarter of 2021, the European cold chain landscape is characterized by high storage occupancy and low stock rotation, mostly driven by food service still being at a near standstill. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the sector, while Brexit has disrupted trade flows as well as the labour market. At the same time, China has been exporting a lot to Europe in the past few months and terminals across the continent report working at full capacity; there is no expectation of flow reduction before the summer. Vessels and sea freight equipment are saturated, there is no additional capacity available on the market. As a result, costs to ship by reefer have multiplied by up to five times.
In most countries, the price of electricity has increased, as well as the cost of insurance. Recruiting and retaining qualified human resources; carbon footprint reduction and cyber security are other important challenges that third-party temperature-controlled logistics operators are facing across Europe. In the meantime, consolidation continues to progress, most recent acquisitions have been announced in Northern Europe, UK and Italy. Besides, several new constructions have started or are under way in various parts of Europe. There is a strong trend towards more sustainable buildings and increased use of automation.