The production of starch and starch products is one of the areas of the processing industry, which is always of great interest to the audience of our magazine.
How will the potato starch market develop? Will there be new projects? What changes to expect in the industry after the pandemic? These questions concern many readers. For answers, we turned to Oleg Radin, President Association of Russian manufacturers of starch and syrup industry Roskrakhmalpatoka.
Potato starch: demand and production at a stable level
Production. Only a few enterprises today produce native potato starch in Russia: Poretsky Starch OJSC (Republic of Chuvashia), Chuvashenkrakhmal LLC (Chuvashia Republic), Mglinsky Starch Plant LLC (Bryansk Region), Pleshcheevsky Starch Plant (Oryol Region), Syrya starch plant (Nizhny Novgorod region), SEC "Luck" (Penza region).
The production volumes in 2019, according to the Association, amounted to about 11,8 thousand tons, which is significantly higher than before (8,0 thousand tons in 2018, 7,2 thousand tons in 2017) .
Nevertheless, this amount is still not enough for the domestic market: according to various estimates, the needs of Russian enterprises are covered by only 30-50%.
Imports. A significant portion of potato starch is purchased abroad. Recall that potato starch traditionally occupies the largest share of imports, compared with corn and wheat. Basically, he comes to Russia from Denmark, the Republic of Belarus, Germany, France and Poland.
In 2019, Russia imported 14,3 thousand tons of native potato starch in the amount of US $ 12,3 million (this is 38,0% or 5,4 thousand tons less than in 2018, and 27,8% or 3,9 thousand tons less than in the same period of 2017). A decrease in the share of imports may be due, for example, to a change in the formulation of consumer products and the transition to modified starches.
In the coming year, we are not recording cardinal changes in this direction. For the first quarter of 2020, 2,1 thousand tons of native potato starch were imported into Russia.
Objectively, the volume of potato starch coming to our country from abroad is not so big: one large modern enterprise (with a processing capacity of 1000 tons / day) would be able to replace it with more than 70%. But at the moment, the Association has no information about plans to develop such a project. In addition, potatoes of technical varieties (with a high starch content) are practically not grown in the country, while the solution to the problem should be comprehensive and begin with the cultivation of raw materials of appropriate quality.
Export. In 2019, Russia exported 3,9 thousand tons of native potato starch for $ 2,6 million. Main recipient countries: Republic of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Tajikistan.
In general, the market volume in 2019 amounted to 22,2 thousand tons, or 53% of the total demand. In 2018 - 28,9 thousand tons or 31%, in 2017, respectively, 27,6 thousand tons or 30%.
It can be noted that the demand for potato starch has remained at approximately the same level over the years. The reason for stagnation is the general weakness of the economy and the absence of growth in food production against this background. At the same time, a significant part of the potato starch market is micro-producers - individual entrepreneurs (especially the confectionery and bakery segment), which quickly appear and also quickly disappear.
Prospects in the global market. In the global market, the share of native potato starch is only 5%. Tapioca (24%) and corn (41%) prevail. Potato starch is a niche product whose share is projected to grow by 2022% by 2,6. At the same time, the general situation will not practically change, since, according to experts, the share of wheat starch should increase by 1,9%, tapioca - by 3,4%, and corn - by 3,8%.
Features of the market for starch products in Russia
The last few years in our country there has been an explosive increase in the production of native starch (accompanied by a drop in imports). The main factors that stimulated this process include high demand from the paper and corrugated board industry.
The increased demand for starches in the five-year period allowed the industry to improve its financial performance. Capacity utilization rose to 76%.
Against this background, new projects began to actively develop, the launch of which, according to experts, in parallel with the expected fading of demand, will ultimately lead to a decrease in load indicators to 70%.
As an example of such a project, implemented "from scratch", we can cite the company LLC "NewBio" in the Volgograd region. This enterprise for the deep processing of corn grain with a capacity of 140 thousand tons / year should begin work in the near future. Products such as corn germ, gluten feed, corn gluten, maltodextrin, corn starch are announced for release.
Thus, the commissioning of this project will contribute not only to an increase in the production of native starch, but also to a significant increase in the share of maltodextrin: the export of this product will potentially increase by 20-40 thousand tons per year. And this despite the fact that in 2019, the supply of maltodextrin abroad has already increased significantly due to the full capacity of Gulkevichsky Starch Plant LLC.
Characterizing the Russian market of starch and syrup products, one cannot but note the steady (over the past five years) decline in demand for various types of molasses and syrups caused by overproduction and low cost of sugar in Russia. The industry is trying to maintain production through import substitution and export development.
Fructose syrups provided another stage in the decline in interest in this type of product in 2019. Note that until 2018, the utilization of the capacities of enterprises for the production of this type of product was almost unchanged and stood at 80%. However, in 2019, in connection with the launch of a new plant in the Kaluga Region, the nominal capacities increased, which increased the volume of products on the market and affected prices. As a result, total production volumes decreased during the year (stopped at the level of 153,7 thousand tons). It is expected that this state of affairs will continue for at least another one to two years.
A few words must be said about the market for special products (modified starches, maltodextrin, dextrose, sorbitol, crystalline fructose, pectin). In recent years, new capacities for the production of these types of products have appeared in our country. And today we can conclude that production volumes fully cover the needs of Russian consumers (the annual demand for all special products does not exceed 220 thousand tons with limited growth).
So, the production of modified starch, apparently, has reached a maximum at the moment, amounting to 50 thousand tons. Of course, expressing such an opinion, it is necessary to emphasize that food modified starches are a heterogeneous segment. They vary both in production methods and end use, and in the type of raw material from which they are made. But in general, this is a new and for many unusual type of product. Based on this, we have to admit that it is not economically feasible to implement full-scale projects for the production of certain types of modified starches due to limited demand. Exporting these products is also difficult, as foreign markets are occupied by traditional manufacturers.
Such projects are very difficult to implement, have indefinite payback periods, which reduces the profitability and attractiveness of investment in the industry.
The situation caused by the pandemic will certainly have an impact on the state of the starch and syrup industry in the country.
Grain processing enterprises have already encountered certain difficulties, since this type of raw material (especially wheat) is growing steadily in price, despite measures taken by the government.
Problems with the sale of finished products will have to be solved by those plants that supplied their products for the needs of the HoReCa sector.
Disruptions in the supply of raw materials in connection with the closure of the borders of the regions are noted by manufacturers who do not have their own storage facilities and who purchase raw materials in small quantities for specific orders.
In general, if we talk about the peculiarities of 2020, according to the companies included in the Association, the first quarter showed unprecedented results: the demand for starch products for some time exceeded the supply, but the situation quickly changed. Temporary shutdowns of production led to problems at the customer enterprises, manufacturers of starch products began to complain about delayed payments.
It can be assumed that in the current situation, in the short term, those suppliers who will be able to provide customers with deferred payment will benefit. In the near future, we expect a decline in consumption, but as a percentage, it is still difficult to calculate.
Situation in the world
International starch and HFS experts suggest that the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting and significant impact on the food industry worldwide. But the consequences for different corners of the globe will be different.
EU countries. In countries such as France, Germany and Switzerland, where the agri-food complex is an important part of the economy, the crisis will not lead to significant changes. These countries are not dependent on imports of most agricultural products, respectively, there are no problems with food. Thanks to this, it was easier for European governments to convince citizens to switch to remote work, which helped to slow the spread of the virus.
Asian countries. On the contrary, the populations of countries such as Singapore (where agricultural supplies from abroad prevail) were extremely concerned about the potential threat of hunger. I think that after the current crisis, all states will strive for agri-food independence. Firstly, it increases the agricultural self-sufficiency of countries during a supply chain disruption, and secondly, it increases export opportunities during times of oversaturation of the domestic market.
In the ASEAN region, countries with a relatively small agri-food sector (such as the Philippines, Laos, and Cambodia) are more likely to increase crop production and try to conquer part of the market in Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. Perhaps this will lead to an increase in local supplies of tapioca and starch. However, it is likely that Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia will also engage in expanding sales markets. These countries are currently selling part of their native tapioca starch to China, where the product is being modified for specialized applications. Perhaps this added value will be used to create new facilities in the ASEAN region. The consequence may be a decrease in the attractiveness of expensive starch and starch products from European manufacturers for export to ASEAN member states.
USA. The United States at the time of the general crisis demonstrated the smooth functioning of the supply chain, which indicates a high level of development of the agricultural industry. So, in California this March recorded an increased level of sales of food products. As elsewhere, demand growth was associated with the desire of consumers to make stocks for the isolation period. But in American stores there was no shortage of goods - unlike European, and especially from Asian. Some manufacturers worked around the clock to meet growing consumer demand.
The world after coronavirus. Market trends
I think many people drew attention to the fact that during the quarantine period the population spent much more time preparing food at home. It is logical that since mid-March sales of milk, flour, eggs and finished bakery products in Europe and the United States have grown significantly. It is possible that after the rejection of the isolation regime, people's interest in cooking at home (including from semi-finished products) will continue.
Manufacturers of modified starches and starch products will need to take this trend into account and review their product formulations to provide semi-finished products with new functionalities.
Also, worldwide consumption of frozen foods and products with a long shelf life is growing. Therefore, manufacturers have an incentive to expand the product line, for which they will need starches with high functionality, including potato starch.
Another trend is related to the benefits of a healthy diet. After the crisis in the USA, Europe and Asia, an increase in consumption of “healthy” products is expected, mainly those that contribute to strengthening immunity. The desire will be especially noticeable in the USA, since medical services in this country are expensive, and sick leave is usually not compensated by the state or the employer.
And a few more words about supply chains. During the coronavirus pandemic, some food and beverage manufacturers faced a lack of ingredients. To prevent a similar situation in the future, they are likely to diversify supplies by expanding the list of suppliers. Another possibility in a situation of shortage of raw materials may be the use of flexible rules for labeling ingredients for their substitution. This would allow businesses to quickly switch between sources of starch ingredients and their derivatives. Therefore, it is likely that suppliers of starch and starch products will expand their geographical presence in the regions of the world, as well as increase the volume of raw materials to provide food and beverage producers with a diverse supply chain. In fact, the current Covid-19 crisis will change the global supply chain of products and ingredients, but it’s hard to predict how everyone will interact in the new environment.