Dubai: Etihad Cargo, the freight division of Etihad Aviation Group, is planning to expand its work in niche areas such as the transport of pharmaceuticals, perishable goods, and live animals amid a slowdown in the cargo industry.

Abdulla Mohamed Shadid, managing director of Etihad Cargo, said that there is growing demand for such niche segments, including the transport of luxury cars, and that has been “quite a big focus” for the business over the past 18 months.

The focus on premium cargo comes as the cargo industry battles with challenges that range from trade tensions between the US and China, to a global economic slowdown, and overcapacity.

“I think year-on-year, we’re definitely seeing less volume [in 2019], but that’s consistent with the market … in terms of bottom line performance, the average market yields have also been down so Etihad has been no exception to that,” Shadid said.

He added, however, that is hopeful the market will pick up again in the next 18 months as demand and supply balance out. Going forward, Etihad Cargo is also hoping to reap the rewards of its digitisation strategy that aims to attract more customers, and improve current services and operations.

For now, the business plans to stay “disciplined” in its growth as it eyes the performance of the broader market and scouts for opportunities.

“We will monitor the market, and grow with it, so if the market grows 2-3 per cent, we will grow 2-3 per cent in terms of our capacity to be able to deploy that. There’s no point in outgrowing the market because that’s not sustainable, so that’s something we’re going to very disciplined and sharp focused on.”