The market for French fries in China is growing rapidly as a result of a booming fast food industry but foreign providers still face barriers, just-food.com reported on 17 February.

Chinese potato output for the marketing year 2019/20 is estimated at 98M tonnes, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), with only 10% of the output further processed into (semi) finished products.

Production of frozen French fries in China in 2019/20 was forecast at 310,000 tonnes, a 10% increase from the previous year as a result of increased fresh potato production, just-food.com wrote.

The country imported the majority of its frozen French fries from the USA. However, due to the additional tariffs Beijing had levied on many US agricultural products amid the ongoing trade tension between the two nations, the share of US companies in the Chinese market had fallen from 64% in 2016/17 to 53% in 2018/19.

As a result, China’s imports of frozen French fries were forecast to fall 10%, to 129,000 tonnes, for 2019/20.

The next largest suppliers, Belgium, Turkey and the Netherlands, together accounted for 40% of China’s imports of frozen French fries, according to the USDA.

Frozen French fries required raw materials compliant with strict specifications (shapes, starch and sugar content) so processors usually contracted with farmers to produce suitable potatoes.

After a poultry disease and other problems affected KFC and McDonalds, the largest buyers, production of frozen French fries had decreased considerably. Consumption of fast food had also been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Just-food.com wrote that despite all these challenges, all major international producers had started French fries projects in China with various levels of success. For example, Canada-based McCain Foods’ first factory in Asia was its Harbin plant in the north of China.

Domestic producers of frozen French fries included Snow Valley, Landun Xumei, based in Shanxi, and Beijing-based Kaida Hengye Agricultural Technology Development.

The bulk of frozen French fries were still imported and international suppliers would be able to increase their exports to China for a while, but to safeguard a long-term share, they would need to produce locally, just-food.com reported.