Chinese cold-chain freezer makers are busy with orders and inquiries, and some of the orders from countries like the US won't be filled until next year, industry insiders say.
Media have reported a shortage of cold-chain equipment supplies in the US after the makers of new COVID-19 vaccines announced special requirements for storage and transportation.
Latest statistics provided to the Global Times by e-commerce giant Alibaba show that the cumulative gross merchandise value of medical cryogenic equipment deals peaked in August, with year-on-year growth of 4,740 percent, and experts believe more orders will come.
Orders for medial-use freezers from the US are expected to keep rising in the coming months, experts predict. Pfizer said its vaccine can be stored and transported for up to six months at -70 C, a strict requirement that will likely mean shortages of cold-chain equipment.
Conditions are less demanding for US biotech company Moderna, whose new coronavirus vaccine mRNA-1273 can remain stable for up to six months at -20 C, near home-freezer levels.
Still, some worry that shortages of cold-chain freezers will persist in the US and elsewhere. These concerns are reflected in rising orders for Chinese producers and backlogs that extend into next year.
A marketing director at Meiling Biology & Medical surnamed Shi told the Global Times on Tuesday that supplies are tight, and many orders won't be filled until 2021, including some from the US. He declined to give details. Shi said that shortages affect both Chinese and US vaccine makers, and his company will give priority to domestic customers.
Another company in the sector, Moon-Tech, is seeing an unprecedented rise in foreign inquiries ahead of vaccine launches overseas. A manager surnamed Wu told the Global Times on Wednesday that although there have been no definite orders so far, the number of inquiries from the US has been unprecedented.
"We now get about one inquiry from the US every two or three days. It used to be maybe three inquiries in half a year. All of the inquiries are about the cold storage of vaccines," said Wu. Inquiries are also coming in from Russia, as well as from domestic companies.
The boom in orders is partly because the delivery speed of China's producers is faster than their foreign counterparts, especially when China's suppliers have resumed full production after disruptions caused by the pandemic.
Wu said that foreign producers often need half a year to fill an order, while Chinese companies can do it in three months at a lower price.
China's vaccine cold-chain equipment capacity is more than 500,000 units, and many local home appliance makers such as Midea are exploring the market now, Qin Yuming, secretary general of the cold chain logistics professional committee of the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing, told the Global Times.
In this sector, China has the lowest prices and largest capacity. "Some Chinese suppliers can definitely expect a boom in domestic and foreign orders as COVID-19 vaccines hit the market," said Qin.