Your ketchup might be from NW China's Xinjiang
Updated 13:35, 17-Oct-2019
Dong Xue

Driving for hours on what was once the southern Silk Road, there are rows of vivid red through a featureless desert landscape. These are where locals dry tomatoes. 

The town is in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China's biggest western region. Its vast land area straddles different climates. However, the amount of sunshine is sufficient for growing fruits and vegetables, especially tomatoes. 

Although tomatoes do not feature much in the traditional Chinese diet, the country now grows more tomatoes for processing than anywhere else in the world, except U.S. state of California.  

Thanks to a growing network of China-Europe cargo trains, more than 80 percent of ketchup produced in Xinjiang is exported to Russia and Italy every year. It takes only half a month for Xinjiang's ketchup and other tomato-based products to reach European countries, which are then processed into favorites like pasta sauce and salsa. 

Much has been written about Xinjiang's oil exports or cotton industry, but did you know that the region produces more than 70 percent of China's tomatoes, or that China accounts for a quarter of all global tomato output? 

Tomatoes in the field. /CGTN Photo

Tomatoes in the field. /CGTN Photo

Here's a couple quick facts you might find interesting for your next Trivial Pursuit game: 

● China exports 700,000 metric tonnes of tomatoes each year. That's more the U.S., Turkey and India (the next three top tomato producers) combined. 

● According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest tomato tree in the world originated in China (and can now be seen at Walt Disney Epcot Center of all places).

● The overall global production of tomatoes totaled 170.8 million tonnes in 2017, of which China accounted for 31 percent.  

● When it comes to exports, China controls about 49 percent of the world market, sending 9.2 million tonnes of tomato products abroad at a value of 4.5 billion yuan (630 million U.S. dollars).


Reporter: Dong Xue

Scriptwriter: Dong Xue

Copy editor: Vanessa Gu

Cover image: Li Wenyi

Executive producer: Dong Xue

Producer: Si Nan

Supervisor: Zhang Shilei