Frozen French Fries on the Rise in China, as Production and Consumption
Processed potatoes in China account for about 15% of total production and include products such as starch, dehydrated potatoes, chips, and frozen French fries (FFF), according to a report presented by USDA Foreign Agricultural Service – “China – Peoples Republic of Potato and Potato Products Annual Report”.
Many potato processing machines only run from mid–August to late–March due to the limited supply of suitable fresh potatoes and inadequate or outdated storage facilities. Many potato processing factories are located in the Northern Single Crop Zone, where potatoes are harvested from September to October. The potatoes produced in other zones are generally not suitable for processing. As a result, China’s processing potato supply is very limited from March–August.
Regarding frozen French fries, China’s MY2018/19 production is forecast at 290,000 MT, a 15% increase from 250,000 MT in MY2017/18. Due to increasing demand for FFF, China’s potato processing industry is building additional processing capacity in Inner Mongolia. In China, there are less than ten FFF processing lines and the addition of a new line will noticeably increase capacity. This new line is expected to begin production in MY2018/19.
China’s MY2018/19 potato starch production is forecast at 400,000 MT, about a 25% decrease from 540,000 MT in MY2017/18, resulting from decreased fresh potato production and strict environmental requirements. Due to the amount of water used to produce potato starch, waste water discharge can be significant pollution source. Industry reports that many small and medium potato starch manufacturers closed in 2018 because they could not meet the stricter environmental protection requirements. Heilongjiang, Ningxia, Gansu, and Inner Mongolia are the primary potato starch producing provinces in China, accounting for over 70% of China’s total production.
When it comes to consumption, frozen French fries will account for a larger share of China’s overall potato consumption. The majority of China’s fresh potatoes are used for table consumption. Industry contacts estimate 60% of Chinese potatoes are consumed fresh in households and restaurants. The processing sector consumes another 15%, animal feed 15%, seed potatoes 5%, and storage loss the remaining 5%. Industry sources believe the share of processing potatoes will increase in the long term with the continuing development of new potato products and marketing.
According to the report, industry contacts also believe China’s FFF consumption will continue to increase in the future at a moderate pace. Continued urbanization and the increasing number of fast food restaurants (the primary channel for FFF), are major contributors to consumption growth. Industry sources also report that the sale of FFF at convenience stores and supermarkets has increased rapidly in recent years with more and more Chinese consumers cooking FFF at home as a result of food safety and health concerns.