Lots of tomatoes but where is the paste ???


Global 2014 crop production figures are now available on Tomatoland World Production Estimates. The crops are up almost everywhere except in South America (- 4 % from 2013). Europe is up 30 % at 9.46 millions MT. with Spain’s growth reaching an impressive 61 % at 2.7 millions MT. equalling its 2009 record. The rest of the « Mediterranean basin » (including Turkey, Iran, Ukraine and North Africa) is also up but by only 8 % at 6.05 millions MT. North America has also increased its output by 14.3 % at 13.76 millions MT. with California achieving a record crop at 12.7 millions MT. Last, the Asian / Pacific production is up 52 % at 6.9 millions MT. with China increasing its output by a significant 61 % at 6.2 millions MT., still far way from its record output above 10 millions MT. of fresh tomatoes back in 2009.

A few elements about the 2014 crop are noticeable :

  • How did California achieve a record crop despite the drought ? a few explanations : – it is clear that the water supply was not as bad as earlier feared, – thanks to the steep price increase farmers have clearly privileged tomatoes vs other crops (local outputs are smaller for lots of competitive crops in California this year) and – last, the access of well water was sufficient and did not affect the field yields.
  • The 6 largest Chinese suppliers did account for less than 60 % of the total pack with the top 2 accounting for about 40 % vs. more than 55 % 3 years ago; in details :
    • Cofco Tunhe : 1.76 millions MT. (28.4 % of the crop) – about 240 000 MT. of tomato paste,
    • Chalkis : 0,79 millions MT. (12.7 %) – about 110 000 MT. of paste,
    • Haohan : 0.43 millions MT. (6.9 %) – about 60 000 MT. of paste,
    • Guannong : 0.34 millions MT. (5.5 %) – about 46 000 MT. of paste,
    • Tianye : 0.23 millions MT. (3.70 %) – about 31 000 MT. of paste.
    • and last Yiyuan : 0,20 millions MT. (3.2 %) – about 28 000 MT. of paste

This means that a large part of the tomato inventories – about 350 000 MT. of tomato paste or 40 % of the pack – is in the hands of “second grade” processors hardly reliable for most foreign buyers. Quality wise, it is estimated that less than 200 000MT. of paste can be labelled as « high quality » with a guaranteed colour a/b level above 2.15 when half of the crop faces colour problems with a/b values below 2.00 !

  • North Italy has faced another difficult crop with less than 2.4 millions MT. fresh tomatoes processed because of adverse weather conditions. The crop was short, with low average yields and, very problematic, record low brix of tomatoes (around 4.60). This means low factory yields – smaller output per tonnage of fresh fruits – and lower revenues for the farmers – as price is fixed on brix level.
  • On the contrary, as said above, Spain has managed an excellent crop with record field yields – reaching 92.65 MT. per hectare in Extremadura ! – thanks to near perfect weather conditions. Extremadura processors have processed 114 % of the contracted volume ! Moreover, local processors could have processed more if severe storms did not forbid them to harvest the last week ! Only negative point, the average brix was on the low side most of the crop. The top 10 processors in Extremadura are Transa – 326 508 MT. of fresh tomatoes, Conesa – 287 169 MT. , Tomates del Guadiana – 257 070 MT. and a record 135 % of the contracted quantity, Pronat – 208 027 MT. , Agraz – 171 765 MT., Tomalia – 162 297 MT., Alsat – 155 242 MT., Tomix – 148 978 MT., Inpralsa 86 310 MT. and last Agroex – 49 940 MT. As Conesa is now the owner of Tomix, it gives an impressive total volume of 436 147 MT. , well ahead of the competition !
  • The Portuguese pack increased by a mere 20 % from 2013 but should have been much higher, possibly around 1.4 Million MT. of fresh tomatoes. The tomato growing areas have indeed faced very heavy rains from end of September and farmers have lost huge acreage of fruits facing big financial losses.
  • Last, only 4 countries faced lower outputs than in 2013 : Turkey, Brazil, Egypt and Argentina did not enjoy favourable climatic conditions and could not achieve the expected programs. Turkish processors had to pay around 110 US $ per MT. of fresh tomatoes because of the tomato shortage, not to mention low brix (between 4.6 and 4.9) that affected processing yields.

The global pack has reached 39.5 millions MT., up 20.6 % from 2013 crop, about 0.5 million MT. of fresh fruits above pre-crop estimates. Because of the very small outputs back in 2012 and 2013, the 3-years average is still going down from last year by 4.52 %.

Although this total volume is much smaller than the 2009 record pack of 44 millions MT. (back then, Europe was at 10.73 millions MT. – vs. 9.46 this year – and China was above 10 millions MT. – vs. 6.2 millions MT. this year), the tomato industry has enjoyed a nice recovery with the second largest crop ever.

However, based on recent market analysis, it is clear that processed tomato products available for sale are quite scarce. This lack of tomato paste is valid from all processing regions; in Europe, only few processors are offering 28/30 % aseptic paste – a recent survey show that only 2 among 10 sellers had 28/30 % CB paste to sell and only in limited quantities, a few hundred metric tons each. 36/38 % paste is even more difficult to find with virtually no processor able to sell it whether in Italy, Spain or Portugal. These 2 countries have indeed supplied most of the paste requirements in Europe as Italy was more expensive, California too expensive for European buyers and last China is too unreliable, but also too expensive to a certain extent, to respond properly to most industrials customers.

California processors are also very reluctant to put paste on the market; « the volume of exportable Cold-Break tomato paste is very limited » explains a local broker, not to mention that most of the goods are in wooden bins.

The Chinese situation is slightly different with a clear distinction between so called « low quality – a/b colour below 2.00 », « medium quality – a/b colour between 2.00 and 2.10 » and high quality – a/b colour above 2.10, rarely above 2.20 » products. Offers for low quality and medium quality are plentiful, whether from well know suppliers or second grade factories.

Now talking about other tomato products from Europe : crushed and diced tomatoes as well as estruso are also extremely difficult to find from any origins – the Italian low production and the Portuguese shorter harvesting period have indeed induced a quasi shortage on pulp tomato products. Although the situation is not as bad for low concentration products such as pasta and pizza sauce (brix from 6 to 14 %), the volumes available are also very limited for these goods.

Prices have consequently gone up from most origins :

  • In Europe, 28/30 % paste is offered between 870 € / MT. (1 087 $) ex-works in Spain – when available as said above – and 950 € / MT. (1 190 $) in Italy. Offers from Greece and Portugal are also within this range. Prices of 36/38 % paste currently stands between 1 150 and 1 200 € / MT. (1 437 to 1 500 $) ex-works, for very small volumes and often quick shipments. These prices are about 15 % higher than pre crop ones ! Aseptic crushed or diced tomatoes prices range between 480 € / MT. ex-works from Spain – but again for very small volumes – and 520 € / MT. from North Italy – only for estruso according to recent market information. These prices are more than 20 % higher than they were 3 months ago. Last, 12/14 % pizza sauce is currently offered above 500 € / MT ex-works whether from Italy, Spain, Portugal or France.
  • In California, 31 % HB paste in drums is priced at 1 100 $ per MT. FOB Plant (count 50 to 75 US$ / MT. less for bins) and low volumes of 36 % CB in bins at 1 250 US$ / MT. FAS Oakland (count some dollars more for drums if you are lucky to find any).
  • In China, prices vary significantly based on quality, shipments period and supplier’s grade :
  • low quality paste for immediate shipment from a well identified factory is currently offered between 950 and 1 000 $ / MT. FOB; sellers will also require an immediate payment, if not pre-payment. “This is the Kinder Egg tomato paste, each drum opening is a surprise” jokes a large European trader !
  • average quality paste also for quick shipments is currently available between 1 020 and 1 050 $ / MT. FOB Tianjin port (goods from one of the top 6 suppliers).
  • high quality paste also for shipments before the end of 2014 is priced between 1 080 and 1 120 $ / MT. FOB; as said above, these goods are scarce and may not be available for very long.
  • we expect prices of low quality paste to stabilize and possibly go down in the future when high quality products will surely see their prices go up in coming weeks or months. Another very important element to take into consideration is the drop of the Russian Ruble which may affect exports to Russia, China’s largest market for aseptic paste by far !
  • From other sources :
  • Turkey is offering 36/38 % CB paste around 1 550 $ / MT. FOB.
  • Ukraine 36/38 % CB paste is available around 1 200 $ / MT. FOT.
  • Chilean new crop (2015) paste prices are not available yet.


What to expect till the new crop and also for the 2015 crop at this stage ?

Let us first have a closer look at the Chinese market : the exports figures – see below – show that, even in a period with little quantities of products available such after the 2013 crop, China still exports about 70 000 MT. of paste per month or 850 000 MT. per year; as 50 % of this volume is made of small cans, the actual volume of 36 % paste equivalent is smaller, likely around 725 000 MT. One can also notice a sensible pick up of exports in September 2014 thanks to the availability of the new crop and because of a strong demand worldwide. We expect the exports to remain quite strong during the last months of 2014. With almost no carry-overs from 2013 crop and a domestic consumption equivalent to 150 000 MT. of paste 36 %, Chinese sellers will again enter the next crop with little, if any inventories; at least with no good quality paste. This scenaria is still clearly subject to the level of Russian imports of Chinese paste in the coming months as it represents around 10 % of the total Chinese exports (2014 figures).

With an average price above 1 000 US $ / MT. (on FOB basis) for aseptic paste 36/38 % and above 1 150 US $ per MT. for cans, Chinese sellers enjoy confortable margins and will be clearly inclined to increase the production in 2015. Some early projections mention a volume of 7.0 to 7.5 millions MT. for the next crop.


oct-13 28 896 36 864 65 760
nov-13              50 276              35 457 85 733
déc-13            61 263            38 522 99 785
janv-14 48 636 40 803 89 438
févr-14 21 906 16 825 38 731
mars-14 48 206 32 672 80 878
avr-14 35 344 31 108 66 453
mai-14 28 561 31 058 59 619
juin-14 30 279 36 893 67 172
juil-14 27 727 39 138 66 865
août-14 19 422 38 888 58 310
sept-14 23 087 47 339 70 426
TOTAL 2014 – 9 months 283 168 314 724 597 892
TOTAL – 12 last months 423 603 425 567 849 170
TOTAL 2014 – proj. 12 months 377 557 419 633 797 190
Monthly Avg. 2014 31 463 34 969 66 432
Monthly Avg. 12 last months 35 300 35 464 70 764




The European situation is slightly different : if any, the volumes that can be “freed” by processors are indeed limited but most regular buyers are already well covered. The domestic – intra E.U. – demand should remain slow till the next crop and prices could remain quite stable in the coming months. One exception could be 36/38 % paste as the demand from abroad could put some pressure on European sellers. Same as in China, better market conditions could definitely push processors to increase their outputs in 2015. According to local sources, Spain is willing to increase its processing capacity to push its production over 3 millions MT. of fresh tomatoes; it is not clear whether this will take place in 2015 already. Italy, especially the Northern regions, will undoubtedly try to push up its output – one should not forget that, as mentioned in our last report, the Italian pre-crop forecast was significantly underestimated; with normal climatic conditions, Italian processors would have achieved a total pack of 5.2 to 5.3 millions MT. without any problem ! Portugal and Greece could also try to increase processing volumes for the next crop but of course with smaller additional volumes. Italian processors may still face higher prices as growers experienced reduced revenues because of low field yields and low prices in 2012 (-6 % on base contracted price) and again in 2013 (- 11 %) because of the brix of tomatoes unless they accept to change the payment scheme at their risks. One very important change for 2015 is the implementation of the new CAP (European – Common Agricultural Policy) : estimated direct coupled payments vary widely from one country to another as shown in the following document presented by Gabriele Canali during the Tomato Day of the CIBUS TEC exhibition in Parma.


Moreover, some regional and specific aids are currently being discussed to compensate for the drop in the amount of subsidy, at least in Spain, Italy and Portugal. It looks that nothing will be very clear before farmers decide to grow tomatoes next crop but one can expect them to ask for higher prices than in 2014. We shall keep you posted in the coming weeks.

Provided that California enjoys a normal rainy winter season, some early projections stand at 15 millions short tons (13.6 millions MT., almost 1 million MT. more than in 2014) for the 2015 pack. To achieve such a record, US processors will have to convince farmers to favour the tomato crop vs. other competitive ones; this would mean paying a high price again, possibly even higher than this year ? On the other hand, some local analysts predict a significant crop reduction if California faces a 3rd year of drought …

Turkey is also likely to increase its production to the 2014 program at 2.3 millions MT., up from 1.8 million this year.

Last, let us have a quick overlook of the southern hemisphere crops :

  • Argentina is planning a production of 440 000 MT., up from 320 000 MT. in 2014; things look good so far according to local sources.
  • Australia should push its output from 240 000 MT. up to 280 000 MT. of tomatoes.
  • Chile : tomato processors from the country are hoping to achieve a total production of between 800 000 and 850 000 MT. of fresh tomatoes in the 2015 crop. Such an output would equate to some 120,000-130,000 tonnes of tomato paste, at various brix degrees. Currently halfway through planting time, getting to the end, the weather has so far been favourable. Cultivated areas to tomatoes are understood to be about 9,000 hectares this year, slightly up from the previous crop. Yields are forecast at some 85-95 MT/



Thanks to a reasonable 2014 crop close to the consumption level, prices should keep on the high side till the next crop. However, the 2015 outlook could get darker for the tomato industry as most processing zones plan to increase their production. An early projection gives indeed a global output of 43 millions MT., roughly 4 millions MT. above market requirements. We will have a close look at the Chinese, Californian – also critical are the winter weather conditions in this region, Italian and Spanish intentions in the coming weeks to better assess the future market conditions.



We thank Mr. Armando Gandolfi for its kind and valuable contribution.