2017 trade results for the Chinese industry shed new light on the announcements of recent weeks regarding drastic reductions in operations for the main processing companies in 2018, including in some cases processing plant closures, or even the decision to sell off processing equipment with a view to converting factories to other product sectors.
With an annual result for the 2017 calendar year down 8% in volume and 9% in revenue, the Chinese industry is increasingly settling into a period of recession. Tomato paste exports between January and December absorbed slightly more than 852 000 metric tonnes last year, the lowest volume of the past eight years and far behind the 1.128 million tonnes of products manufactured in 2011. 2017 ended on the worst turnover results for the past 10 years, with total value of the products shipped (as recorded by the customs services) only amounting to slightly more than USD 652 million. Such results have not been observed since 2007, but their significance is even more notable for the fact that they follow on from the equally catastrophic results of 2016, which were caused by the deterioration of worldwide prices for tomato products (-6% in volume and -21% in value).
The biggest drops occurred in the volumes of shipments to the European Union and Russia. On these two market outlets, Chinese paste exports have lost a lot of ground, notably in Italy (-31 000 mT, which is almost half of the volume shipped on average the three previous years (2014, 2015 and 2016)), the United Kingdom (-11 500 mT, or close on two thirds of the annual volumes shipped there between 2014 and 2016), but also in Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic, where sales of Chinese pastes respectively dropped by 10 200 mT, 5 800 mT and 3 500 mT last year. Shipments to Russia decreased by 17 000 mT, which is 17% of the average export volume for the past three years.
Significant drops have also been recorded for market outlets such as Algeria, South Africa, Congo (RDC), as well as Benin, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Guinea. Conversely, a few regions or countries increased their purchases of Chinese paste in 2017. This is the case of Saudi Arabia, Sudan, South Korea, Brazil and Kazakhstan, to only name the main ones.
Finally, against all expectations, volumes shipped to West Africa, which is the biggest outlet for Chinese exports, remained stable compared to the previous year (2016) and only dropped by 4% (-13 200 tonnes) compared to the average volumes shipped the three previous years. Ghana (81 000 mT), Nigeria (68 500 mT) and Togo (50 000 mT) once again increased their purchases of Chinese products.
In 2018, more than ever, it will be important to keep an eye on the potential impact of protectionist trade policies implemented by several countries of the wider Africa region.
(See also the articles presented in our recent special report "Africa wakes up", by consulting the pages News > Advanced Search > Folder).