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The world's biggest importer of tomato paste, second biggest importer of canned tomatoes, fourth biggest importer of sauces and ketchup – these are Germany's performance figures for 2017 (and for many years now), a country that has been a major outlet for the worldwide industry, both for elaborate finished products and for products aimed at industrial remanufacturing.
The volumes of raw materials absorbed last year by Germany's foreign purchases of tomato products amounted to approximately 2.3 to 2.4 million metric tonnes (farm weight equivalent). In the EU15 European market whose accumulated imports have amounted to more than 9.8 million tonnes in farm weight equivalent (f.w.e.), the 2017 trade flow into Germany absorbed almost one quarter of the volumes shipped into the region. The volumes involved were 20% higher than those of the United Kingdom (approximately 1.9 to 2.0 million f.w.e.) and 70% higher than those of France (between 1.3 and 1.4 million mT f.w.e.), and they are virtually twice as big as those of Italy (1.1 to 1.2 million mT f.w.e.).
The leading countries of the European tomato processing industry are naturally the main supply sources of paste for the German market. Italy (147 300 mT of finished products, or 59% of total volumes over the past three years), Spain (47 300 mT, 19%) and, to a lesser extent, Portugal (16 400 mT, 7%), supply most of Germany's imports for this sector. Chinese products (10 900 mT on average over the period running 2015-2017), along with Turkish products, Ukrainian products and French products, only amounted to 24 500 mT per year over the past three years, which is barely 10% of Germany's total foreign purchases.
The German market mainly imports 12-30°Brix pastes in industrial pack (40% of the volumes over the past three years) of which a large part is used for remanufacturing into more elaborate products (sauces) for the big European retail brands. Of the 253 600 mT imported in 2017, 91 000 mT entered Germany under code 20029031; the importance of this sector has tended to decrease in recent years, to the benefit of less concentrated products available in "catering" or "retail" formats (customs code 20029019). These products accounted for almost one quarter of German paste imports over the period running 2015-2017 (see the distribution among the different sectors in the infographics illustrations in the Appendix to this article).
German expenditure on imports of paste amounted on average to close on EUR 242 million between 2015 and 2017, a considerable increase on the 199 million committed each year to the same supplies between 2012 and 2014.
Germany is also the main non-processing country to export paste in significant quantities. Last year, Germany re-exported close on 19 000 mT of pastes, a volume that is consistent with the average of the three previous years (approximately 20 000 mT on average between 2014 and 2016) and a slight decrease compared to average annual figures recorded since the start of the 2000s (slightly more than 23 000 mT exported each year).
German exports of paste are mainly shipped to neighboring countries or those that are geographically close: Netherlands, Austria, France, Poland, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the Czech Republic are the main buyers. In 2017, paste exports brought in close on EUR 26 million for Germany.
The German market also represents a strategic outlet for the canned tomato category. With approximately 238 000 mT of canned tomatoes imported last year (232 000 mT on average for the period running 2015-2017), Germany ranks right behind the United Kingdom, in second place worldwide among importing countries for this sector. For a long time, Italy supplied 90% of this category's products imported by Germany, but this proportion has tended to decrease in recent years, to the advantage of new arrivals on the market like Poland, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal... In 2017, Italian canned tomatoes accounted for 86% of German purchases. In return, German imports absorbed 16% of Italy's foreign sales in this category.
Germany re-exports a small proportion (approximately 3% in recent years) of the volumes of canned tomatoes imported, mainly towards neighboring countries like Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark, the United Kingdom... This business has brought in between EUR 11 and 12 million per year in recent years, a tiny fraction of the total amounts paid out for supplies in this same category (between EUR 150 and 160 million per year over the past five years).
Germany's industrial vocation as a remanufacturing operator is apparent in its trade of sauces and ketchup. Imports have recorded regular growth over the past twenty years, although this has slowed slightly in recent years, resulting in volumes purchased abroad of approximately 121 000 mT in 2017. Most of the imported sauces and ketchup come from the Netherlands and Italy, two countries that account for about 70% of German supplies. Well behind these two leading suppliers, Poland is doing its best (with about 10% of the markets) to maintain and develop this outlet.
Foreign purchases of sauces have annually cost Germany between EUR 140 and 142 million over the past four years.
However, part of this expenditure is compensated by revenue brought in by German exports in the same category. A considerable share of the imported tomato paste sees its value increased as it is remanufactured into sauces, which are then exported towards France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Denmark... The volumes involved in this trade have grown rapidly over the past 20 years, from less than 18 000 mT in 1997 to close on 80 000 mT last year.
The revenue generated by German exports of sauces has increased even faster, from less than EUR 19 million in 1997 to close on EUR 104 million last year.
In summary, the German trade balance for tomato products is clearly passive. Average "net" expenditure has amounted to exactly EUR 400 million over the past four years, of which slightly more than half is dedicated to the purchase of tomato paste supplies. In comparison, the United Kingdom spent the equivalent of EUR 490 million for the same period of time for its supplies of tomato products. Average French expenditure over the past four years amounted to EUR 340 million, while Canada spent the equivalent of EUR 250 million (USD 291 million) and Japan spent the equivalent of EUR 231 million (USD 265 million).