- François-Xavier Branthôme
Turnover from the export sector in 2018/2019 lower than 2012/2013 results
Last year, which was the fourth consecutive year of declining sales for US exports of tomato products, the total value of goods exported by US operators was just over USD 637 million, down almost USD 100 million against the average result of the past three years and far below the best performance achieved in 2014/2015 with more than USD 833 million. In fact, it is necessary to go back to 2011/2012 to find a lower turnover than last year.
The downturn in two flagship sectors of US foreign operations has led to this spectacular decline: the sauces and ketchup sector has clearly been the most impacted of the two, with performances that fell last year by 18% in quantity and 16% in value compared to the previous three years, mainly due to a reorientation of Canadian purchases of this type of product (see our article "Ketchup: Is the global market in decline?", dated 18 November). The adverse effect of the relative strength of the US dollar against other currencies, which is one of several explanations given for the slowdown in US foreign activity in the sauces and ketchup sector, is also a factor in the continued weakness of US paste exports: in 2018/2019, they dropped 10% in quantity and more than 12% in value compared to the average results of the three previous marketing years (2015/2016, 2016/2017 and 2017/2018).
In this difficult context, only canned tomato exports improved their results last year, with an increase of 11% in quantity and nearly 13% in value.
In 2018/2019, the turnover for paste exports was USD 269 million, which is USD 38 million lower (12%) than the average for the previous three years. The value of sauce exports (USD 311 million) decreased by about USD 61 million, while external sales of canned tomatoes grew significantly (+USD 6 million, +13%) to nearly USD 57 million.
As for paste exports, by definition one of the biggest if not the main driver of the US processing activity, it is necessary to remember the level reached in 2013/2014 (more than 540 000 metric tonnes exported, i.e. about 3.15 million tonnes of fresh tomatoes) to fully measure the scale of the decline in foreign activity and its impact on the industrial and agricultural upstream of the US industry. In 2018/2019, foreign sales of the sector only shipped 346 000 mT of finished products, with an estimated raw material equivalence of around 2.0 million tonnes, more than one-third less than the best US performance of five years ago.
Three regions have been primarily affected by the decrease in the quantities exported in 2018/2019. In Central America, the drastic reduction in purchases from Mexico, Colombia and Trinidad and Tobago heavily impacted regional dynamics, which fell by nearly 24 000 tonnes of finished products (approximately 21%) between the three marketing years of 2015-2018 and 2018/2019. In the Western European Union, it was the declining flows destined for Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom that led to a significant drop in trade, of some 22 000 mT of products, i.e. 28%, over the same period of time. For reasons we have already commented on involving China's foreign trade with West Africa (see our article "China: trade slightly up in 2018/2019"), sales of pastes to Nigeria, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire (to mention only the most significant) recorded serious decreases during the last marketing year. On the balance sheet, the quantities mobilized for these destinations fell by more than 9 500 mT, or about 87% compared to the average results of the three previous years.
Significant declines also affected exports to the Chilean and Algerian markets. Conversely, some regions significantly increased their purchases of US tomato paste: this was particularly the case of the Far East, where sales to Japan, South Korea and the Philippines increased significantly, taking US trade to more than 12 000 mT of products (+23%) across the region. Similarly, the quantities delivered to the UAE, Israel and Kuwait were nearly 6 700 mT (35%) higher in 2018/2019 than they had been on average over the previous three years. Other notable increases occurred in the quantities exported to Turkey, Brazil and Spain, but in the final count, the USA’s 2018/2019 marketing year ended with a fifth consecutive decline and a 10% decrease compared to results of the three previous years.