, François-Xavier Branthôme
- 2017 production
With a major reduction in the forecast in California and smaller drops in other regions, the 2017 season has taken a new turn in recent days, bringing the expected total volume of tomatoes to be processed during the 2017 season below the threshold of 38 million metric tonnes. At now 37.55 million metric tonnes, the 2017 prospects fall by more than 500,000 tonnes compared to last year, and places the probable final production at between 5 and 6% below the average of past three years.
On 29 August, the USDA announced a downward revision of the Californian processing prospects. This reduction, however, was not considered sufficient by local business sources who have established the probable level of activity at only around 11 million short tons (sT), just below the 10 million metric tonne (mT) mark,
This reduced forecast is not the only one to lower the expected result of a 2017 season marked by the impact of the subsequent heat waves between June and August. As already mentioned in our previous situation reports, several countries, including Italy and Turkey, have already reported a decrease in the quantities processed and/or a poorer than expected quality of the tomatoes (lower brix), suggesting that the quantities of finished products will be lower than expected. The reduction in California, however, is the most significant, and it brings the volume of the crop to a level that has not been seen since 2006/2007. The latest California estimate, at 9.98 million mT, is close to 1.5 million mT lower than the final result of 2016.
This overall crop reduction could be a good news if we consider that consumption in recent years was only increasing at an annual rate of slightly less than 2%...
The season is now at about half way with nearly 85,000 tonnes harvested. The harvest has been progressing well in both the south-east and the south-west regions with good quality so far, although brix are generally slightly lower than expected. The rains in the last couple of days have not disrupted production.
Damages from the rains have been higher than initially estimated and the forecast is further reduced to 400,000 tonnes. Already 70% of the contracted volume has now been processed. Average brix is rather good at about 5°. It is now raining but it will hopefully not last too long and disrupt the harvest.
In the north, the last official figures show that as of 20 August 1.3 million tonnes of tomatoes with an average brix of 4.76 had been processed. It is estimated that 350,000 tonnes have been harvested last week bringing the total volume to 1.6 million tonnes which is 60% of the total volume contracted. Factories are now running very fast at full capacity as the farm yields for the mid-season varieties are good, although brix is now lower than the season’s average so far. There are still questions about the yields and quality for late varieties. The total volume processed in the north is now expected to be 2.5 million tonnes, although processing yield is lower than last year so the volume of finished products will be lower than expected. Rains are forecast for the coming weekend.
In the south, the crop is developing well and is 7 to 10 days earlier than usual. The yield per hectare is quite good, but there are some worries about the late season. As of 29 August about 1.8 million tonnes has been processed so if the weather conditions remain good a total of 2.4 million tonnes can be achieved. The overall total for Italy would then reach 4.9 million tonnes.
The harvest is going well in Andalucía where 85% of the forecast has already been processed. Rains on Monday and Tuesday this week did not affect the harvest which will continue at full speed until early next week and then slow down to finish by 15 September.
In Extremadura, after three weeks of low volume the harvest is now back at normal volumes although some heavy localised rain on Tuesday (up to 80 l/m2) are disrupting the harvest locally. It is estimated that 60% of the forecast has been delivered to date and that the harvest will continue until 20 or 25 September.
The season was progressing well in the Ebro valley, until harvest got disrupted this week due to several days of rain. It should restart at full speed on Monday 4 September.
The forecast remains 3.2 million tonnes although it could be reduced slightly.
The current situation is not good with low farm yields and issues with whitefly reducing the volumes harvested. Fruit quality is generally correct. It is probable that the season will end around 25-27 September and that the production will be between 5 and 10% lower than expected at 1.5 million tonnes or slightly less.
Outside the EU:
The processing season is now over with 640,000 tonnes of tomatoes processed of which 620,000 tonnes into an estimated 95,000 tonnes of paste in 26 factories, and 20,000 tonnes into 13,000 tonnes of canned tomatoes in 5 factories. The planted surface was 14,275 hectares, down from 15,00 hectares in 2016, and the total production (fresh + processed) an estimated 900,000 tonnes.
Not much has changed in the last two weeks. The yields remain lower than expected and the brix fairly low at about 4.6°. The harvest in the south is now finished and some tomatoes are being trucked from the other regions to factories there. There is not much competition from the fresh market this year. The season is still at its peak but it will end soon and the harvest will finish by 20 September at the latest. The total volume should be 1.9 million tonnes or slightly lower.
About 35% of the forecast which remains at 650,000 tonnes has now been processed. The weather is good and fruit quality is good with good colour and a brix averaging 5.
Other WPTC countries
The estimate is to process 952,000 short tons (864,000 metric tonnes) for this week. At the end of this week (September 2) the industry will have processed approximately 6.9 million short tons (6.3 million metric tonnes). On August 29, USDA/NASS released their latest estimate of 11.5 million short tons (10.43 million metric tonnes). This is a reduction of 300,000 short tons (272,000 metric tonnes) from the June 1 estimate of 11.8 million short tons (10.7 million metric tonnes). Based on reports from the field at this time, the overall feeling is that this number is overstated. The impact of both the wet planting conditions and the June heat on the crop are having an impact on field yields at this time. At this time, many believe that a number closer to 11 million short tons (9.979 metric tonnes) is what should be expected.
The 2017 processing season is underway and reports are that tomato solids are above average with colour, yield and peel quality being very good. Some areas could still use rain however the outlook is very positive to achieve contract tonnage, if not slightly above.
The season is progressing normally and 2.49 million tonnes had been processed by 29 August. The weather in both Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia is good and the quality of tomatoes is normal. The yield in Xinjiang is higher than last year while it is lower in Inner Mongolia. The final processing quantity is however uncertain for late plantings in Xinjiang and the weather in September will be a key factor. The total forecast remains 5.5 million tonnes, although some believe it will not exceed last year level (5.15 million tonnes).
Almost all the factories are working under full capacity while some factories in Xinjiang have been asked to stop the processing by the government because they cannot fulfil the requirement of discharge of waste water. In recent years, the Chinese government has had more and more strict requirements and control on issues involving with the environment protection. This issue affected Inner Mongolia a few years ago and this year it affects the processing in Xinjiang. While the real impact should not be important this year, it may affect operations next year.
The estimate is 160,000 tonnes. The current warm weather can, however, influence this figure negative but we will have more certainty within the next two weeks.
The forecast remains c. 50,000 tonnes.
Tomato harvesting started on 11 August, and quickly reached the planned capacity. Weather is ideal for harvesting. In this season good quality crop is estimated. Approximately 45% of the harvest program has been achieved as of 1st September. Harvesting and processing with this rate will finish at the end of September.
The forecast is reviewed down to 160,000 tonnes due to a succession of issues in the different regions throughout the season. About 50% of the 3,400 hectares planted have been affected by either rain (up to 850 litres per m2 in the last 3 months), or hail. Some of the losses, however, have been offset with very good yields in other fields. The harvest started on 4 August and should continue until early October.