COVID provides increase to Portugal’s bicycle makers
By Sergio Goncalves and Miguel Pereira
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 appears to be like 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 almost 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 world demand.
“Once we closed on March 13, we thought it will be a disaster, we had been scared,” mentioned Bruno Salgado, govt board member of RTE Bikes, which owns Europe’s largest bike manufacturing facility, within the metropolis of Gaia, in northern Portugal.
“Nevertheless it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for us,” mentioned Salgado, standing between two busy manufacturing strains on the manufacturing facility, which produced 1.1 million bicycles final yr.
Worldwide, individuals have been attempting to keep away from crowded trains and buses in the course of the pandemic, preferring to cycle, stroll or jog to work and different locations.
Cristina Latoeira, a civil servant in Lisbon, mentioned 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 is the worry of being on very busy public transport, in winter, the worry of contagion that made me select this mode of transport that I think about a lot safer,” the 42-year-old mentioned.
Like most different European nations, Portugal has just lately seen the variety of COVID-19 infections rise once more after a summer time 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 in the course of the summer time 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 mentioned.
João Maia, normal supervisor at In Cycles, a rival agency which produced 87,000 bicycles in 2019, has seen demand double.
“In the mean time, we export bicycles to all nations on the planet, together with nations which are purported to be main bicycle producers” similar to Italy, Bulgaria and Romania, mentioned 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 because of elevated issues over local weather change and a transfer to more healthy life, Portugal’s manufacturing had jumped 42% in 2019 to a file 2.7 million bicycles – virtually 1 / 4 of all these constructed within the European Union, in response to Eurostat information.
Regardless of this yr’s two-month manufacturing facility shutdown, Gil Nadais, normal secretary of the Portuguese bicycle producers’ affiliation Abimota, informed Reuters he expects the nation will beat final yr’s file.
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 mentioned. “Nevertheless it was value it.”
(Writing by Sergio Goncalves and Ingrid Melander; Enhancing by Gareth Jones)