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An overview of the global and China’s lactic acid industry

An overview of the global and China’s lactic acid industry2019.08.30

Lactic acid is mainly used in pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industries. Some lactic acid derivatives (such as lactate) have hygroscopic and emulsifying properties and can be used as emulsifiers and food improver. So far, most of the lactic acid is produced by fermentation. 


Lactic acid and its derivatives are widely used in the downstream sectors such as food, medicine, cosmetic, feed, textile, plastic, etc.


According to its global applications, the food and beverage industry, and polylactic acid industry (PLA) are the top downstream sectors, accounting for 46.4% and 37.6% respectively in the consumption structure, and followed by the industrial and pharmaceutical sector accounting for 9.8% and 6.2% respectively.



(Data Source: IHS Markit)


In China, the consumption of lactic acid industry in China is mainly concentrated in food and beverage sector, accounting for 70.4%. Compared with the global market, the application of PLA in China is still in its infancy, therefore, it consumes about only 12.2% of the lactic acid. The industrial use and medical care account for 11.5% and 5.9% respectively.



(Data Source: IHS Markit)


Apparent consumption of lactic acid in China showed a continuous growth trend, increasing from 61,700 tons in 2014 to 83,800 tons in 2018.


(Data Source: IHS Markit)
 
 On the other hand, China's lactic acid production also showed an increasing trend from 2014 to 2018. In 2018, China's lactic acid production reached 121,000 tons, up by 5.2% year-on-year.


(Data Source: IHS Markit)
 
As the production increases, China’s lactic acid import presented a slow and volatile growth in the past five years. It dropped to 5,800 MT in 2016 and then rose to 8,000 MT in 2018, seeing a year-on-year growth of 15.9%.


(Data Source: IHS Markit)
 
On the other hand, China’s lactic acid export hit the bottom at 36,100 MT in 2015, seeing a 5.0% decrease from the previous year. The export began to rebound in 2016 and reached 45,200 MT in 2018. 

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