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China: Average Wholesale Prices of Potatoes

In a recent report USDA-FAS forecasts for China a fresh potato production of 94 million metric tons for marketing year 2021/22 (September to August). This is a 5 percent decrease from the estimated 99 million metric tons produced in the Marketing year 2020/21, a result of decreased acreage.

According to industry sources, the potato planting area decreased in the northern single crop zone due to very high corn prices that led farmers to switch between the crops.

Many farmers shifted to corn production incentivized by strong returns. Additionally, the potato area sown from September to November 2021 in the southwestern mixed crop zone is also expected to decrease due to low potato prices.

Industry sources shared that potato prices decreased over 25 percent in the first half of 2021 from the same period in 2020, due to increased production. The increased production in 2021 was due to high potato prices in 2020, which supported increased planting acreage.

According to the 2021 China Agricultural Outlook Report, on average, the wholesale price for fresh potatoes in 2020 was RMB 2.62/kg (USD 0.18/lb.), an increase of 9.2 percent over 2019, which is the highest level in the past ten years.

The potato price in the first half of 2020 was particularly high for two reasons:

  1. 2019 stocks were low
  2. In the spring of 2020, potato production areas (mainly the southwestern mixed crop zone, including Yunnan province) suffered unfavorable weather conditions (i.e., freeze damage), which resulted in lower-than-normal production levels and higher potato prices

The price of potatoes fell in the second half of 2020 due to an abundant supply from the northern single crop zone. According to the 2021 China Agricultural Outlook Report, over the next ten years, China’s potato acreage will increase by an average of 0.7 percent annually and the potato yield will increase by an average of 0.7 percent annually with improvements in seed potatoes and the use of better-quality land and land management practices.

As a result, the report estimates potato production will increase by an average of 1.4 percent annually for the next ten years. These estimates are higher than the 2020 report, as China estimates that improvements in seed potato quality will continue to be realized.

The top six potato-producing provinces in China are Sichuan, Guizhou, Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Hebei, and Yunnan. These provinces account for over 60 percent of total fresh potato production. There are four major potato growing zones in China:
 
  1. The northern single crop zone
  2. The southwestern mixed crop zone
  3. The central double-crop zone
  4. The winter crop zone.

 

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China: Map of Potato Zones

Frozen French Fries

China’s MY2021/22 Frozen French Fries production is forecast at 420,000 metric tons (MT), a 20 percent increase from the estimated 350,000 MT in MY2020/21 for two major reasons:

According to industry sources, a new Frozen French Fries production line will be put into production in MY2021/22 in Inner Mongolia;

Frozen French Fries producers will expand their production as much as possible to make up for the reduction of imports (see trade section in the report). Industry contacts also believe frozen French fries production capacity expansion may happen in the next few years to meet increasing domestic market and export demand.

Consumption

China’s overall fresh potato consumption remains stable, but a gradual increase is forecast over the next decade. The China Agricultural Outlook forum has not revised estimates for fresh potato consumption from 2020. Industry estimates 60 percent of domestic potatoes are consumed fresh at home or in restaurants. The processing sector accounts for about 10 percent of China’s total fresh potato consumption.

About 12 percent of potatoes are used for seed potatoes, 5 percent for feed use, and storage loss accounts for 13 percent (see image below). According to the China Agricultural Outlook Report 2021, China’s potato consumption structure will remain relatively stable over the next 10 years.

Industry contacts indicate Frozen French Fries consumption will increase at a moderate pace over the next decade, due to the continued urbanization of China’s rural areas, which brings greater exposure to frozen French fries and related products, along with an increasing number of fast-food restaurants opening in China that carry frozen French fries products for sale.

The rapid development of delivery food service in China is also contributing to Frozen French Fries consumption. Industry sources report that the sale of Frozen French Fries at convenience stores, supermarkets, and through online retailers is expected to increase exposure and allow for greater consumption.

 
China: Estimated 2021 Fresh Potato Consumption

China: Estimated 2021 Fresh Potato Consumption


 
(Click the image to read the full paper!)
China: Frozen French Fries imports (MY2016/17-MY2021/22)

China: Frozen French Fries imports (MY2016/17-MY2021/22)

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