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EU foreign sales grew 6% in volume in 2017
Unlike US exports, which have been penalized by the exchange rate of the US dollar against the currencies of competing processing regions, and unlike Chinese exports that have been facing several major issues including profitability, the exports of European processing countries kept up their dynamics in 2017, and even recorded clear growth, at least in terms of volume.
Whereas 2017 Californian exports dropped by close on 128 000 metric tonnes (mT) of finished products (-27%) compared to the average performance of the three previous years (2014-2016) and generated revenue that was one third lower (USD -132 million) to the revenue of this same three-year period, Chinese results recorded a significant decrease in volume (-78 000 mT, or 8% less than during the period running 2014-2016) and even more so in value (USD -215 million, -25%). These drops are all the more noticeable for the fact that they occurred in a context where trade in the paste sector was practically stable in terms of volume around the world (-0.8% between 2014-2016 and 2017), albeit accompanied by a significant decrease in value (-13%) (See chart in the appendix at the end of this article).
These market shares that have been "lost" by the operators of the world's two main processing regions were partly "recovered" by the operators of the third biggest region – the Mediterranean basin. 2017 ended with an overall progression of 6% in volume (+80 200 mT) for the four main processing countries of the EU, which is quite remarkable given the current hesitant growth of the sector worldwide. The tendency of global prices to depreciate has nonetheless weighed heavily on economic performances, and has led to a slight drop of 1% (EUR -14 million, or USD -70 million) in the total value of exported products.
The progressive and simultaneous slowdown of Chinese and US exports in recent years has contributed to a slow but noticeable recovery of European foreign sales, but also of export shipments from other operators around the world, notably Turkey, Iran, Chile and Ukraine.
Two European countries stood out particularly in 2017.
Firstly, Spain alone accounted for the largest part of the increase in European paste exports, with a spectacular improvement (close on 75 000 mT, a 27% increase) in its performance between 2016 (293 000 mT) and 2017 (340 000 mT). The biggest increases in Spanish exports were achieved on the markets of Germany, Italy, Britain, Portugal, Japan and Oman. However, this surprising growth only saw relatively measured increases in revenue (+13%, from EUR 274 million in 2016 to EUR 297 million last year).
2017 was also a positive year for Portugal in terms of trade, with foreign sales of pastes recording an increase in volume of close on 28 000 mT (+12%) and a more modest growth in value of 4% (to EUR 198 million). The country's main outlet destinations last year were the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, while other countries like Kuwait, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Russia dropped their purchases of Portuguese paste.
The 2017 performance of Italy on foreign markets (669 000 mT) is in sharp contrast with the excellent results of 2017 (727 000 mT) and brings the country back to the levels of previous years (2014-2016) with a slight decrease (-9 100 mT) of 1% in terms of volume compared to the same period. With more than EUR 602 million, the value of the products exported in 2017 was EUR 44 million lower (approximately -7%) than the average value of paste exported between 2014 and 2016. Sharp drops were recorded in 2017 by Italian operators, particularly for shipments to Germany, Libya, Austria and Sudan, although they were mostly compensated by gains recorded by sales to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, Angola, Burkina Faso, Russia, etc.
Despite some progression in terms of volume, limited to geographically closer trade partners (Poland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, the UAE), Greek exports of paste were down by approximately 13 000 mT last year, compared to the period running 2014-2016. A few countries (United Kingdom, Germany and Belgium) increased their purchases of Greek pastes, but in insufficient proportions to avoid a drop in the overall turnover of the sector, which fell by close on 28% to less than EUR 32 million last year.
The increase in volumes exported in 2017 by operators outside of the three main processing regions already mentioned is virtually equivalent to the increase recorded by the main processing industries of the EU: last year, more than 79 000 mT were added to the volumes exported by operators in Turkey (+21 900 mT, +16%), Iran (+19 700 mT, +16%), Chile (+13 700 mT, +12%) and Ukraine (+24 300 mT, +84%) compared to average results for the three previous years. Total volumes exported by these four countries in 2017 amounted to over 476 000 mT of finished products (compared with slightly more than 234 000 mT in 2008), which accounted for approximately 15% of the global trade increase last year, against only 9% less than ten years ago.
Once again, the weakness of global prices for pastes limited the extent of the trade performance. Despite increases in terms of volume, the revenue generated by Turkish or Chilean foreign trade in 2017 recorded noticeable decreases (respectively -11% and -7%) compared to the average performances of the three previous years.
The volumes of pastes exported by the group of four countries composed of Ukraine, Turkey, Iran and Chile have more than doubled in less than ten years.
Some complementary data
Along with a slight recovery recorded by European paste sales, the internal market (EU15) still accounts for a large part of the outlets for processing countries in the region, and its size has tended to grow slowly but regularly. Indeed, the dynamics of foreign markets (see below) have suffered in recent years from the slowdowns observed in Mediterranean Africa, West Africa, East Africa, as well as in Eurasia and in the Indian peninsula. (Exports of tomato paste from Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece)
Performances of the main paste exporting countries over the past four years, in terms of volume (mT) and value (USD).
Performances of the paste exporting countries of the EU15 over the past four years, in terms of volume (mT) and value (EUR).
Evolution and composition of worldwide exports of pastes since 1997.