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China: CFNA explains the 2024 forecast

04/03/2024 - Sophie Colvine - 2024 Season
Following the major increase in the production forecast announced for China in 2024, we have asked the China Chamber of Commerce of Import & Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce & Animal By-Products (CFNA), which represents Chinese tomato processors within WPTC, for an interview to better understand the situation. 

Tomato News: The volume of tomatoes processed in China has risen from 6.2 million tonnes in 2022, to 8 million tonnes in 2023 and a forecast of 11 million tonnes has been announced for 2024. Can you explain this significant increase in production in a short period?

CFNA: First, farmers are more motivated to plant tomatoes. 
The world is experiencing inflation. The prices of commodities, including tomato products are rising. The US Federal Reserve curbed inflation by raising interest rates. The US dollar strengthens and developing countries' exchange rates depreciated made higher returns for export goods. 
In 2023, the extreme weather in May led to lower acreage yields of tomatoes, and continuous rainfall in August and September prevented the processing plant from operating at full capacity. These made producers to push up the price of tomato raw materials. On the other hand, farmers planted other cash crops with poor returns. Finally better income motivated farmers to grow tomatoes.
Second, the structure of demand has changed. China's domestic consumer demand is increasing. 
Since COVID-19 epidemic in last few years, people are getting used to cooking at home, which has led to a surge in demand. Generally speaking, China is a large consumer of  fresh tomatoes rather than processed tomatoes. However, in recent years, manufacturers have applied processed tomato products to Chinese cuisine, typically represented by tomato hot pot. Through continuous R&D, innovation and publicity, Chinese people have begun to transfer their interesting from fresh tomatoes to processed tomatoes, which has led to a rapid increase in the demand for processed tomato products. China's processed tomato industry is shifting from complete dependence on exports in the past to meet domestic consumption demand, and the product structure is also shifting from purely raw material for bulk tomato paste to diced tomatoes, ketchup, and so on. 
Overall, China's 2022 crop production was slightly less than demand and 2023 crop was balanced. If the forecast according to 2023 whole year consumption, it is predictable that all 2023 crop goods will be consumed by the end of September 2024. In the view of stability of whole tomato industrial chain, the fully match between supply and demand is not that safe, especially in current 
international shipping situation full of uncertainty. Thus it is very necessary to keep two months of safety stock. Therefore, the increase in production in the 2024 season is partly to make up for the shortfall in demand over the past two years, and partly to maintain safety stocks, making the supply chain more stable and orderly.
Last but not least, the current assessment is based on the sales volume of seeds and the production capacity of the processing plant, which can theoretically meet the demand of 11 million tons. However, weather factors and actual planting situation are all uncertainties. It can only be a rough estimate for reference by now. A more accurate prediction needs to wait until the end of transplantation.
Has more capacity been installed in China in the last year, and where?

Historically, China has had such processing capacity. Producing nearly 9 million metric tonnes in 2009. When processed tomatoes came to China, the Chinese ordered a lot of Italian processing lines, all of them are well maintained. They have begun to gradually return to production. For 2024 crop, the current statistics are 6,400 tonnes per day of capacity restored and 32,800 tonnes per day of capacity added and expanded, for a total increased to 39,200 tonnes per day. These statistics are based on equipment only and it doesn't mean all of them will processing on 2024 crop.

Are there more plans for expansion in the future?

Just like California, the 2024 crop increasing is to make up the production shortfall in 2022 and 2023, easing the supply-demand conflict. In the long term, processing will not further increase, but the product mix will move towards to process consumer-oriented tomato products, and there will be a gradual reduction in bulk tomato paste.

What is the breakdown of production between the different regions?

It is not yet possible to assess the exact distribution area, the current estimate mainly comes from seed sales, but the seed volume cannot fully represent final planting volume. There is still some time to go before the seedlings, we believe that around end April or early May, when the transplanting is finished, there will be a more accurate estimate.
What is the domestic consumption of tomato products in China and how is it progressing?

From 2008 to 2014, tomato products were mainly used in Western style restaurants. The annual consumption equivalent to bulk paste in China increased from 67,000 tonnes to 107,000 tonnes, with an average annual growth rate of 6%. Since 2015, the hot-pot market has experienced a taste bud revolution, and tomato hot pot has grown rapidly. The local consumption in 2023 was about 211,000 tonnes equivalent to bulk paste, with an average annual growth rate of 8%.
Tomato products are becoming a new trend in Chinese cuisine due to their rich nutrition, suitable for all ages, and good taste. Tomato products are quickly expanding their application scenarios in fields such as hot-pot, fast food, ready-to-eat meals, Western cuisine, beverages, and so on. It promotes the rapid growth of domestic consumption. As we can see, China's increased production will first meet local consumption needs.
By re
view 2023, 5.24 million tonnes of raw tomatoes were exported directly in bulk tomato paste. 1.14 million tonnes of raw tomatoes were used for processing and then exported as direct consumer packs, and 1.58 million tonnes of raw tomatoes were used for domestic further processing of tomato sauce, hot-pot, diced tomato, and so on. That adds up to 7.96 million tonnes of raw tomatoes.

China is a big market. Chinese people love to cook varieties of dishes. The fresh tomato usage amount in China is very large. The proportion of processed tomatoes is still low compared with fresh tomatoes consumption. Processed tomato products has large developing potential in future. The current growth in consumption of tomato products is sustainable. Like California and Europe, China's processing tomato industry will be more responsive to its own needs in the future.
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