Global trade potatoes increasing

The global trade in potatoes, including potato products, had a value of more than 11 billion euro in 2016. Globally, the Netherlands is the most important exporter, with an export valued at 2.4 billion euro last year. Belgium is in second place with an export value of 1.9 billion euro in 2016. Regarding value, the frozen potato products rule the roost. And the global trade is still growing considerably in this every year. In 2016, it was six billion euro. That was an increase of more than ten per cent compared to 2015. Regarding volume, the global trade in potato products also still shows a nice growth each year. In 2016, 7.4 million tonnes were traded globally. 

Trade consumption potatoes only growing outside of Europe
The global trade in consumption potatoes is still growing as well, but seen over a period of ten years, the increase is levelling off. In 2016, 10.5 million tonnes of consumption potatoes were internationally traded. Compared to ten years previously, this is about 1.5 million tonnes more. The global trade in seed potatoes is also growing seen over a longer period, although less. The Netherlands is a market leader in that, with a share of about 60 per cent. It’s not easy to find out how many potatoes are produced globally. The FAO says it’s an annual production of approximately 400 million tonnes. Considering there are quite a few amateur horticulturalists who grow potatoes, the number could be much higher. Potatoes are grown all over the world. China is by far the most important country, followed by India, and then Russia and Ukraine. The Netherlands is in tenth place on the FAO’s list, with a production of 6.7 million tonnes in 2016. This consisted of 3.3 million tonnes of consumption potatoes, 1.5 million seed potatoes and 1.9 million tonnes of starch potatoes.

On the market of frozen potato products, Belgium and the Netherlands play first fiddle. With a share of 28 and 24 per cent respectively, it accounts for more than half of the total. For Belgium, France is the most important sales market, and for the Netherlands, it’s the UK. The US and Canada are the numbers three and four. The US mostly supplies Japan, Mexico and China. The export of Canada is practically primarily focused on the US.

Largest trade flows remain in Europe
A small 60 per cent of the global export of consumption potatoes (both for the fresh market and for industry) happens among EU countries. Seen over a period of ten years, there’s some variation from year to year, but trend-wise that trade has remained fairly stable at a level around 5.9 million tonnes. The export of other countries has grown in those ten years, from 3.2 to 4.7 million tonnes. Especially countries in South and East Asia have started exporting more consumption potatoes; from 0.58 million tonnes in 2006 to more than one million tonnes now. That trade mostly happens among countries in this region. The same is true for North America. The export of African countries showed the largest relative growth over the past ten years. This image is mostly decided by Egypt. The export from this country fluctuates from year to year, but a considerable growth can be seen trend-wise.

The mutual trade between various countries often show quite different figures. The export from country A to country B shows a different figure than the import in country B from country A. Based on import figures from all countries, the mutual trade of EU countries plays an even bigger part than with export. The top five of import countries for consumption potatoes consists of EU countries. Belgium and the Netherlands are by far the two most important ones, and it’s remarkable that a large part concerns mutual trade. Spain, Italy and Germany are the other three countries in the top five.

Besides own production, the Netherlands imports many fresh consumption potatoes. Globally, the Netherlands is even the second importer, just after Belgium. In 2016, 1.7 million tonnes were imported. The enormous import of potatoes from Germany is noticeable. In 2016, it concerned an amount of as much as one million tonnes. The German export of potatoes is very much dependent on the Dutch market, because half the German export is focused on the Netherlands. On the other hand, of the Dutch import of consumption potatoes, three-quarters comes from Germany.

Most Dutch consumption potatoes to industry
The largest part of the Dutch production of consumption potatoes (3.3 million tonnes) and import (1.7 million tonnes in 2016) is meant for the processing industry. In the 2016/17 season, it concerned an amount of nearly four million tonnes that was processed, according to the NAO (the Dutch Potato Organisation). That was slightly more than in the season before that. The majority is processed into (pre-fried) frozen products. The Dutch export of consumption potatoes was about one million tonnes in 2016, according to CBS figures. NAO and Eurostat have figures of 0.75 and 0.80 million tonnes respectively. Belgium is by far the largest buyer. According to the NAO, around 350,000 tonnes were exported to Belgium in the 2016/17 season. The Dutch export of consumption potatoes is focused on Europe for three-quarters, with Belgium and Germany as most important countries. The various sources, however, show quite some differences. For example, CBS/Eurostat report considerably more export to markets further away, such as Senegal, Mauritania and Ivory Coast, compared to NAO. Last year, the Netherlands exported to 100 countries, 50 of which were sent more than 1,000 tonnes.

While the Netherlands sells considerable amounts of consumption potatoes outside of the EU, the export of Belgium, Germany and France is primarily focused on EU countries. German and Belgian product is mostly shipped to the Netherlands, and French potatoes are mostly meant for Spain. A trend can be seen in other EU countries also looking for markets further away, but for now it doesn’t concern amounts as large as the Dutch ones yet. Last year, Germany exported more than 25,000 tonnes to Indonesia, more than 20,000 tonnes to Thailand, and also fair amounts to the Gulf states and the Philippines. France is trying in the Gulf states, but last year the amount shipped there remained limited to just over 10,000 tonnes. But this was more than before that. In 2014, Belgium managed to sell a fair amount in markets further away, but this was less in 2016.

Modest import from outside of the EU
The import of consumption potatoes in the EU from countries further away is relatively modest. Last year it concerned an amount of less than 370,000 tonnes. This was more than in the two previous years, but in the past it sometimes concerned more than 600,000 tonnes, so that’s far from an increase. Israel and Egypt are the two most important countries regarding this. 

From Israel, 185,000 tonnes were imported in the EU last year. The UK and the Netherlands are the most important EU countries for the sales of Israeli potatoes. The majority of export from Israel is focused on EU countries.

From Egypt, 160,000 tonnes were imported in the EU last year. The majority arrives in Italy. Russia is the most important buyer of Egyptian potatoes. Other buyers from Russia are Lebanon, Italy, Greece, Germany, Syria and the Gulf states. 

Morocco is the third country from which potatoes are imported into the EU. Last year it concerned 13,000 tonnes. In total, Morocco exported 45,000 tonnes last year. Mali, Senegal and Mauritania were the most important buyers.

As said, trade outside of the EU is increasing, although it mostly remains within the region. Last year, the US exported 470,000 tonnes of consumption potatoes. Two-thirds of this was sent to neighbouring countries Canada and Mexico. The remainder was mostly sent to southeastern Asian countries. Of the 480,000 tonnes Canada exported, 420,000 went to the US. China exported more than 400,000 tonnes in 2016, the bulk of which went to countries in the region. In recent years, Pakistan has exported around 400,000 tonnes. A considerable part of this is shipped to the Gulf states.

Russia more self-supporting?
Last year, Russia didn’t import more than 300,000 tonnes of consumption potatoes. The record year for Russian imports was 2011. As much as 1.4 million tonnes was imported in that year, but the own harvest was small. In the years following, it concerned amounts between 400,000 and 600,000 tonnes. The import boycott has had an effect, although not as much, because in 2012 and 2013, before the boycott, respectively 135,000 and 71,000 tonnes were imported from other countries that are part of the boycott. Russia has therefore just imported fewer potatoes in recent years. Figures from domestic production show a slightly rising trend, but it’s not very clear. 

Furthermore, the Gulf states are a sales market for consumption potatoes. In recent years, it has always concerned about 500,000 tonnes. Pakistan, Lebanon and Egypt are the most important suppliers. From the EU countries, approximately 50,000 tonnes were exported to the Gulf states last year. African countries import about 400,000 tonnes every year. Senegal and Somalia are the most important countries (on paper). EU countries could sell 165,000 tonnes of consumption potatoes in total in African countries last year. That was less than in the two previous years. The majority of this was Dutch product.

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