‘A blessing in disguise’: COVID offers increase to Portugal’s bicycle makers
LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s bicycle makers feared for his or her future when the coronavirus pandemic pressured them in March to close for 2 months however 2020 now seems set to be a bumper yr as individuals shun public transport and go for more healthy methods of getting round.
Portugal, Europe’s largest producer of bicycles, needed to shut its practically 40 factories and put their 8,000-strong workforce on furlough to assist curb the unfold of COVID-19, however is now struggling to maintain up with booming international demand.
“After we closed on March 13, we thought it might be a disaster, we had been scared,” stated Bruno Salgado, government board member of RTE Bikes, which owns Europe’s largest bike manufacturing unit, within the metropolis of Gaia, in northern Portugal.
“Nevertheless it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for us,” stated Salgado, standing between two busy manufacturing strains on the manufacturing unit, which produced 1.1 million bicycles final yr.
Worldwide, individuals have been attempting to keep away from crowded trains and buses through the pandemic, preferring to cycle, stroll or jog to work and different locations.
Cristina Latoeira, a civil servant in Lisbon, stated it was the pandemic that had lastly persuaded her to splash out 800 euros on the electrical bike she had lengthy dreamed of shopping for.
“It’s the concern of being on very busy public transport, in winter, the concern of contagion that made me select this mode of transport that I take into account a lot safer,” the 42-year-old stated.
Like most different European international locations, Portugal has lately seen the variety of COVID-19 infections rise once more after a summer season lull.
Portugal exports about 90% of the bicycles it produces, with key markets in Germany, France and Italy.
As lockdowns imposed to halt the unfold of COVID-19 started to ease throughout Europe through the summer season months, distributors across the continent ran out of inventory, pushing Portuguese producers to lift manufacturing and capability.
RTE Bikes is now working at full steam, producing about 5,000 bicycles a day, up from a median of three,000-4,000 this time final yr, Salgado stated.
João Maia, basic supervisor at In Cycles, a rival agency which produced 87,000 bicycles in 2019, has seen demand double.
“For the time being, we export bicycles to all international locations on this planet, together with international locations which might be speculated to be main bicycle producers” corresponding to Italy, Bulgaria and Romania, stated Maia, as electrical bikes had been assembled in a manufacturing line behind him.
In Cycles plans to double its manufacturing strains to 4 from this month and already has orders for about 185,000 bicycles in 2021, Maia added.
Even earlier than the pandemic struck, partly as a result of elevated considerations over local weather change and a transfer to more healthy existence, Portugal’s manufacturing had jumped 42% in 2019 to a document 2.7 million bicycles – nearly 1 / 4 of all these constructed within the European Union, in accordance with Eurostat information.
Regardless of this yr’s two-month manufacturing unit shutdown, Gil Nadais, basic secretary of the Portuguese bicycle producers’ affiliation Abimota, instructed Reuters he expects the nation will beat final yr’s document.
Lisbon civil servant Latoeira actually has no regrets.
“I had hesitated quite a bit, I used to be very anxious whether or not I ought to make this buy as a result of it’s a bicycle, it may be stolen,” she stated. “Nevertheless it was value it.”
Writing by Sergio Goncalves and Ingrid Melander; Modifying by Gareth Jones
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