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Dossier: The Architecture of Global Trade in 2017-2018 

This article summarises the global trade of tomato products for the marketing year 2017/2018. For recent information, you can also access the latest articles published in the news section, using the search facility here . You can also contact us if you want specific information on a product or a country.

Over the past two decades, the volumes of tomato products exported by the world's main industrial tomato processing regions have more than doubled. In addition to domestic processing activities, which are often insufficient to cover local requirements, consumption needs have increasingly and generally been met by products manufactured on the processing lines of national industries with a global reach like Italy, California, China, Spain, Portugal and Chile. From less than 10 million metric tonnes (mT) in farm weight equivalent in 1997/1998, the volumes shipped abroad have increased almost regularly at an annual rate of 4.9% over the past twenty marketing years, which is a faster rate than the growth of volumes processed around the world, to the point of exceeding 26 million mT in 2016/2017 before dropping back slightly in 2017/2018 to just below that level.
However, in 2019, the growth rate on which worldwide industry operators previously depended to consolidate their development is no longer what it was in 2009, particularly in the specific sector of tomato pastes. The geography of worldwide demand has shifted, the expectations of consumers have evolved, the requirements of remanufacturing operators have changed and competition has been harder to pin down as local initiatives have developed. The industrial and commercial context of "consistent long-lasting growth", in which companies operated in the main processing countries between the middle of the 90s and the beginning of the 2000s, has turned into a context of sluggish growth in which the preeminence of the biggest operators has been progressively eroded by local protectionist measures and the development of processing activities in regions or countries that had previously depended on imports. So the supremacy of a few leading countries of the sector, who had been supplying up to 98% of the world's overall requirements until just before the crisis of 2009, has weakened relatively in recent years: foreign sales of the world's TOP12 exporters only accounted in 2017/2018 for approximately 95% of the world's international paste trade, thereby bringing that group of countries back to the position it occupied on the worldwide scene in 1999/2000.

At the moment, the market's continuous expansion model that resulted in the increase of processed quantities in the main exporting countries over the past twenty years no longer seems to be applicable. Growth strategies for industries and companies, particularly in the paste sector, can be considered at best as stagnating in the global context, possibly even as decreasing, in the worst-case scenario. This situation, which aggravates competition because growth can only be pursued by taking over pre-existing market shares at the expense of other industrial operators, does seem to be what has determined the context of worldwide industry operations for the past five or six years. In 2017/2018, for the sixth consecutive year, worldwide exports of paste only grew at a rate of 0.5% in volume, whereas the average annual growth rate almost reached 7% for the fifteen previous marketing years. More worrying still, the volumes of raw materials absorbed by these big trade movements – in other words, the production of the agricultural upstream and the very basis of our industry – saw virtually no growth last year. They only amounted to 19.4 million mT in farm weight equivalent, which also just corresponds to the average of the three previous marketing years.
For the TOP12 worldwide paste exporters, the conclusion is even harsher: for the past half dozen years, operations have remained constrained within a range of 18.2 to 18.7 million mT (farm weight equivalent), and the result of the 2017/2018 marketing year (18.45 million mT) has only confirmed the weak dynamics of that group of countries.

Total volumes absorbed at a worldwide level by the production of paste for export has hardly varied over the past four marketing years, remaining close to an average annual volume of some 19.4 million tonnes (farm weight equivalent). These volumes had grown from 7.4 million mT to 18.9 million mT between 1997/1998 and 2011/2012.

The different market segments did not evolve in the same way over this period of twenty years, and neither have they evolved together in recent marketing years: whereas worldwide paste exports of 12-30° Brix and of over 30° Brix (20029031, 20029039 and 20029091, 20029099) recorded spectacular growth (CAGR above 7%) and were driving the development of the paste sector as a whole until 2011/2012, exports of low-concentration tomato purée (less than 12° Brix, customs codes 20029011 and 20029019) only increased slowly, at an average annual rate of about 1.9%. Trade dynamics have shifted radically since 2011/2012, with a sluggish growth rate (even negative at times) for the traditional drivers of the segment over the past six marketing years (less than 1% per year for 12-30° Brix pastes, and even -0.2% per year for pastes of more than 30° Brix), while exports of low concentration products (less than 12° Brix) have accelerated and are now growing at an annual rate that is getting closer to 5%. The direct consequence of this shift in demand and dynamics is a notable reduction in the volumes of raw tomato being absorbed by worldwide trade patterns, the effects of which can be measured by the extremely slow growth in the volumes processed in recent years, as well as by the previously unseen slowness in the recovery of worldwide prices for pastes intended for export, after the price crisis that started in the summer of 2014.

The 2017/2018 marketing year only saw limited change compared to our previous market overviews. Among the three main product categories, exports of sauces seem to have done better than other categories at resisting the slowdown in dynamics. The development of global exports for this kind of product has been practically linear over the past 20 years, at an average annual rate of close on 5.8%. In 2017/2018, the worldwide trade for sauces shifted 1.38 million mT of finished products (up by 1.8% against the average (1.35 million mT) of the three previous marketing years (2014/2015, 2015/2016 and 2016/2017)), which is the processed equivalent of slightly more than 4.0 million tonnes of raw tomato.

As for exports of canned tomatoes, their growth has been slower (3.3% per year) over the past twenty marketing years and they have absorbed lower volumes of raw materials than the two other sectors. During the latest marketing year (2017/2018), the global trade in canned tomatoes shipped 1.74 million tonnes (approximately 2.45 million mT in farm weight equivalent), which is a remarkable increase of 6.8% compared to the average of the three previous years (1.63 million mT). This recovery in operations can probably be explained by the weak dynamics that governed exchanges over the five previous years.
The final result is that the volumes of tomatoes exported during the 2017/2018 marketing year amounted to the equivalent of 25.9 million mT of raw tomato, which is a slight decrease compared to the global performance of the previous year, but still significantly up (+2.5%) compared to the average of the volumes shipped during the three previous years (25.6 million mT in farm weight equivalent). The annual growth rate over the past six marketing years reached approximately 1.3%, well below the 6.5% that drove the sector's growth between 1997/1998 and 2011/2012.
Combined growth of worldwide exports in the three main categories of tomato products (pastes, canned tomatoes, sauces), expressed in farm weight equivalent.
The tomato paste trade in 2017/2018

In 2017/2018, like in 2016/2017, the 15 main paste exporting countries accounted for 97% (3.12 million mT) of the sector's global trade (3.22 million mT). The only notable difference in the composition of the TOP15 list was the entry of Hungary, whose remarkable development as a foreign operator with 12 767 mT allowed it to displace Peru from the 15th position, as that country's volume of exports only reached 12 544 mT last year. For information, the volumes shipped by China over the last marketing year were 70 times bigger than those of Hungary.

Almost half (1.55 million mT, or 48%) of the volumes exported in 2017/2018 involved products originating in China or Italy. This proportion climbs to 79% of all worldwide trade when it includes the volumes shipped from Spain, the USA and Portugal (991 000 mT). Foreign trade recorded by Turkey, Iran, Chile, Ukraine and Greece, within a more limited geographical context, accounted for approximately 15% (about 495 000 mT) of the total volume. The volumes exported by the smaller operators of the sector (Netherlands, France, Poland, Germany and Hungary) amounted to about 85 000 mT (2.6% of the worldwide total).

The result of the 2017/2018 marketing year is slightly down on the result of the previous year: last year, worldwide paste export operators shipped almost 37 000 mT less than they shipped in 2016/2017. Indeed, big fallbacks in imports were recorded for Mediterranean Africa (-77 200 mT), Eurasia (-26 000 mT), South America (-24 000 mT) and the western part of the European Union ("EU15") (-16 400 mT). Italy's foreign trade was penalized by the drop in Libyan purchases, while foreign sales recorded by China, Spain and the USA were all affected by the spectacular drop in Russian purchases (in a context that saw that country develop its own production and processing operations). In South America, the drop in Argentinian imports and, to a lesser extent, in Brazilian ones, has had a negative effect on Chilean and Chinese export performances. Finally, US and Chinese foreign trade results have paid the price for the decreases and shifting patterns in Italian purchases, but also in the paste imports of countries like the UK, Germany or the Netherlands...

These changes in the origins of products imported into certain countries of the EU15 mainly benefited Spain (+33 700 mT), Turkey (+7 300 mT) and Portugal (+7 000 mT). Other shifts in supply sourcing patterns have been recorded for West Africa, the eastern part of the European Union ("EU13") and the Middle East, to only mention the main ones, with extra volumes once again benefiting the tomato industries of China, Spain, Portugal, and, to a lesser extent, Turkey, which have in fact resulted in increases in the volumes exported.
In the final count, increases in exports (+114 500 mT) recorded on these markets and on a few others (Far East, Asia-Pacific, Southern Africa and Indian peninsula) have not been sufficient to compensate for the combined decreases recorded during this past marketing year (-151 400 mT), resulting in a slight fallback of 1.2% in terms of volume compared to the previous year.

In total, over the past seven marketing years, the influence of China on the worldwide tomato paste market has taken a considerable knock (falling from 38% of the category's worldwide trade in 2011/2012 to less than 28% last year). China’s main challenger on the paste market is Italy (the world's biggest exporter of tomato products overall), which has done its best to maintain its global market share at about 21%. After several years of growth, Spain climbed into third position worldwide last year (at the expense of the US industry, which has suffered on the global market) with 12% of total exports for the period, a rank that it had not occupied since 2006/2007. The US performance fell back once again and accounted for 11% of the worldwide total, placing that country, which is the world's biggest processor, in fourth position in the ranking of paste exporting countries. Portugal recorded major growth, reaching 8% of overall global exports, which placed it in fifth position in this ranking, ahead of Turkey, whose foreign sales nonetheless recorded a good result in 2017/2018. As for Iran and Chile, these countries saw their results in terms of volume and their global market share fall back during the marketing year.

Tonnage figures indicated for suppliers and for destinations are total volumes – the diagram presents all of the paste exchanges for the marketing year.
The canned tomato trade in 2017/2018
The extreme polarization of the worldwide trade in canned tomatoes, which has been the main feature of this segment for many years, does not seem likely to change in the foreseeable future. Particularly for the operators in the South Central region of Italy, who are the undisputed leaders of the sector, the 2017/2018 marketing year provided the opportunity to consolidate their hold on the global market for canned tomatoes, recovering some of the market shares that they lost in previous years. With 1.366 million mT exported over this past marketing year, Italy accounted for more than 78% of the world's trade in canned tomatoes (1.74 million mT). The biggest challenger to the Italian industry on this market is Spain, whose exports last year amounted to about 127 300 mT, which is eleven times less than the volumes shipped by Italy. The United States, Greece and Portugal also operate in this category as primary first stage processors. However, the combined operations of these three countries only accounted for slightly more than 135 000 mT of finished products in 2017/2018, and slightly less than 8% of the total quantities shipped around the world. The other countries of the world's TOP8 exporters of canned tomatoes (Netherlands, Mexico and Turkey) only accounted for a total of slightly less than 4% of the sector's operations.

Outlets for this category are particularly concentrated: in 2017/2018, like in previous years, the European Union absorbed 63% of the world's exports of this segment, with the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Belgium featuring among the main importing countries for canned tomatoes. Purchases by the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia and, to a lesser extent, Switzerland and Brazil, make up the rest of the group of countries that consume a lot of canned tomatoes.

Results for the 2017/2018 marketing year demonstrate a notable increase of 59 200 mT worldwide (3.5%) and of more than 61 500 mT just for the eight leading countries of the category. This performance is mainly driven by the increase in Italy's foreign trade, which alone added close on 58 400 mT (+4.5%) to the total of global trade for the year. Most of the markets already mentioned as being among the biggest at the worldwide level – except for the Far East, which is not particularly significant – are among the destinations that have increased their supplies during the past year. Purchases from the EU15 recorded an increase of more than 35 600 mT, which is proportionally smaller than those recorded for North America (+3.9%), the EU13, South America, etc.

Despite the stated ambitions of Spanish competitors, who have nonetheless managed to take over a noticeable share of the worldwide markets, the dominance of Italian products in this canned tomato category continues to become stronger as the years go by.

Tonnage figures indicated for suppliers and for destinations are total volumes – the diagram presents all of the canned tomato exchanges for the marketing year.
The sauces & ketchup trade in 2017/2018
Contrary to the extreme polarization that characterizes the world's canned tomato category, the global market for tomato sauces & ketchup remains a competitive sector where many supplier countries take part – including several that only operate as remanufacturers – and where the scale ratios between exporting countries are much narrower than for the paste or canned tomato categories.
In 2017/2018, the fifteen main exporting countries only accounted for 86% of the total offer. Slightly more than 1.378 million mT of finished products were shipped last year, of which 1.186 million mT were sold by one of the leading countries of the category. This atomization of origins does not however prevent a few countries from emerging as dominant players: with more than 347 700 mT exported, the United States alone accounted for one quarter of total foreign sales last year. The USA are followed by the Netherlands in terms of foreign trade, with Dutch exports nonetheless accounting for close on 241 000 mT and 17.5% of total shipments for the year. With the addition of the volumes exported by the Italian industry (129 000 mT of finished products), more than 52% of the world's exports of sauces & ketchup were recorded by just three countries.
Several industries of intermediate importance also played notable roles at a worldwide level: Spain, Germany and Poland (the new arrival in this top group for the category) practically ranked equal during the last commercial season, with all three exporting similar volumes of between 68 000 mT and 78 000 mT, thereby each accounting for approximately 5% to 6% of the worldwide market.
Belgian, Portuguese and Chinese exports each absorbed approximately 35 000 mT to 40 000 mT of products and accounted for an overall total of about 8% of the volumes exported around the world.
These nine countries are mainly known for the scale of their processing industries, but nonetheless only accounted, over the past marketing year, for slightly more than three quarters of total supplies, with total volumes of just over 1 million tonnes. Six other national industries (Egypt, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Costa Rica, South Africa and the Czech Republic) also played a role in this segment, with volumes between 18 000 mT and 28 000 mT (between 1% and 2% of the total for the 2017/2018 marketing year). About fifty other countries shared the remaining 192 000 mT.

The western part of the European Union and the North American continent are among the very big destination markets: together, these two outlets absorbed more than 802 000 mT of finished products in 2017/2018, approximately 68% of all worldwide exports, most of which were shipped to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium, Canada and the United States. A few countries of Central America (Mexico, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, etc.), the Far East and the eastern part of the European Union also featured among the noteworthy importers for this category.

Although the relative dispersion of supply and consumption areas generally reduces the effect of ordinary annual variations, a few notable increases and decreases influenced the trade flow during the 2017/2018 marketing year. 
Among these significant shifts, one particularly noteworthy increase was recorded for volumes imported by nations of the western part of the European Union (+22 700 mT), particularly by Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, as these countries proceeded to reorient their supply sources to the advantage of the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Poland, and at the expense of foreign sales from Belgium and Portugal. This increase is the only one to have benefited European exporting countries, given that the other significant positive development over the year was recorded for Central American purchases, which were logically supplied by operators in the US and Costa Rica.
The increase in Central American purchases was not however sufficient to compensate for the effect on US sauces & ketchup of the drastic drop in Canadian purchases. Compared to the average of the three previous marketing years, US sales of sauces to Canada in 2017/2018 (203 000 mT) fell back by about 43 000 mT of finished products, which is more than 17%.

In total, worldwide exports of tomato sauces & ketchup increased by less than 1% in 2017/2018, but the TOP15 group of supplier countries only partly benefited from this growth. Operators in Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Spain and Costa Rica improved their performances, as did China whose sales recorded a slight recovery in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. Conversely, products from the US, Belgium, Portugal and Egypt lost a few market shares over the past year, with final results for the TOP15 recording a slight contraction of approximately 3 500 mT compared to the 2016/2017 marketing year.

Over the latest marketing year of 2017/2018, the US industry is the only one with a global reach that recorded a net decrease in its worldwide market share, while processors in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland and Portugal managed to extend their outlets.

Tonnage figures indicated for suppliers and for destinations are total volumes – the diagram presents all of the sauces & ketchup exchanges for the marketing year.

Some complementary data
Regional trade divisions, as defined in 2010 by Duncan Blake and FX Branthôme at the Estoril world tomato Congress, and revised at the Athens Congress.











Sources: IHS, TDM

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