An organic acid with a long history and importance, lactic acid and its salts are widely used in the food industry. The national and local governments in China are actively promoting their production. In January 2023, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the National Development and Reform Commission and six other departments jointly issued the “Three-Year Action Plan for Accelerating the Innovation and Development of Non-food Bio-based Materials”, proposing to accelerate the construction of standards such as physical and chemical properties, different process performance, and degradation performance under different conditions around key bio-based materials such as polylactic acid.
Key facts & figures
During the period from 2017 to 2022, the average export price generally maintained a growth trend, and the average export price in 2022 was USD 1.71/kg, an increase of 13.79% year-on-year. According to statistics, the global lactic acid production capacity increased from 750,000 mt in 2021 to 995,000 mt in 2022, an increase of 32.67%; China is the world’s second largest consumer and the largest exporter of lactic acid, accounting for about 50% of the world’s production capacity.
Leading company: Jindan Technology
Jindan Technology has been focusing on R&D and production of lactic acid and its series of products for many years, including clean production of strains, the production of ethyl lactate, and the application research of new lactic acid antibacterial agents in the feed industry. In emerging fields, Jindan Technology has conducted research into green organic catalyst conversion, and biodegradable polymer technology to facilitate extending the company’s industrial chain to the downstream biodegradable plastics industry. In 2022, Jindan Technology further increased R&D investment, with a total of R&D expenses in the first three quarters of RMB 0.44 billion, up 18.34%。
The export volume of lactic acid and its salts and esters in China is much greater than the import volume. During this period, China’s imports of lactic acid and its salts and ester products generally maintained a relatively stable growth trend, with a total of 16,200 mt in 2022, up 9.44%. The export volume of lactic acid and its salts and esters in 2022 totaled 88,100 mt, up 7.73%.
Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation. He is a co-author of a major book introducing the cultural drivers behind China’s economic success.