The International Air Transport Association has released data for global air freight markets showing that demand, measured in freight tonne kilometers, fell 4.7 per cent in April, compared to the same period the year before.
This continued the negative trend in year-on-year demand that began in January.
Freight capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometers, grew by 2.6 per cent year-on-year in April.
Capacity growth has now outpaced that of demand for the last 12 months.
Air cargo volumes have been volatile in 2019, due to the timing of Chinese New Year and Easter, but the trend is clearly downwards, with volumes around three per cent below the August 2018 peak.
Brexit-related trade uncertainty in Europe and trade tensions between the US and China, have contributed to declining new export orders.
In month-on-month terms, export orders have increased only three times in the past 15 months and the global measure has been indicating negative export demand since September.
The continued weakness is likely to lead to further subdued annual FTK growth in coming months.
“April saw a sharp decline in air cargo growth and the trend is clearly negative this year.
“Cost inputs are rising, trade tensions are affecting confidence, and global trade is weakening.
“Airlines are adjusting their capacity growth to try and fall into line with the dip in global trade since the end of 2018.
“It all adds up to a challenging year ahead for the cargo business.
“Governments should respond by easing trade barriers in order to drive economic activity,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA chief executive.
The figures were announced during the opening stages of the IATA annual general meeting in South Korea.