Redefine plastics // Focus on the Central European plastics industry

Slow recovery

The expected boom in industrial production has fallen short. The low point of industrial production in April was followed by a slow increase in production in May.

Not all countries have yet published industrial production data for May. However, it is clear that, with one exception (Croatia), industrial production has started to grow. So far, the fastest recovery is taking place in the Czech Republic and Hungary, where industrial production increased by 13.8% compared to April, followed by Poland and Serbia.

Industrial production changes Year on year (April, 2020) Year on year (May, 2020) Compared with previous month (May/April, 2020)
Bulgaria -15,7% n.p. n.p.
Bosnia and Herzegovina 15,9% 15,9% 2,0%
Czech Republic -33,7% -25,7% 13,8%
Croatia -11,0% -12,4% -5,6%
Hungary -36,8% -30,7% 13,8%
Poland -24,6% -17,0% 12,5%
Romania -38,5% n.p. n.p.
Serbia -16,6% -9,3% 10,1%
Slovakia -42,0% 0,0% n.p.
Slovenia -22,8% n.p. n.p.

Industrial production was 69-91% in Central Europe in May 2020 compared to the previous year.  For us, the question is how does all this affect the plastics industry in Central Europe. That’s why we sent out a questionnaire to our readers earlier this week. We were curious about how much their production in June was compared to the same month last year. We have their production forecast for July and for the whole of 2020.  The result is described below.

In summary, the plastics industry as a whole has been less tolerant of the severe restrictions imposed because of the corona virus and their consequences. This is mainly due to the high proportion of “Packaging” products in the total industry. However, some segments, such as component manufacturing (e.g., the automotive industry), are severely affected by the epidemic and the consequent economic downturn. If we evaluate the individual months, it can be seen that production and sales in the plastics industry in June fell compared to April and May, as well as compared to a year ago. Plastic processing companies are optimistic and expect better demand again by July. It is common experience that buyers order in smaller lot sizes due to significant market uncertainty. Production is unpredictable, companies can’t plan ahead for the usual 4-8 weeks. They now work with often changing production plans for 1-2 weeks. Rising feedstock prices as well as liquidity management are also big challenges. The most difficult situation is for companies that export a large proportion of their production to countries in southwestern Europe, as economic uncertainty has been very strong for months.

Regarding each segment, we can make the following statements in detail:

Film production for packaging

Demand for PE film sold in rolls fell in June. This is partly due to the usual seasonal effect in June-July. But compared to the previous similar period, it can be seen that sales are lower than in the previous year. Poland seems to be an exception here, respondents reported 90-100% production in June compared to the previous year, this is expected for July and the whole year. In the rest of Central Europe, sales were more in the range of 70-90% in June compared to the same period last year, but higher values are expected for July. Polish film companies expect sales of over 90% for the whole year. Other Central European countries are also confident that they will approach 90%. BOPP film producers and converters also produced between 90-100% of the “usual” in June, expecting a similar percentage for July and the whole year.

Manufacture of bottles and caps

Due to the rainy weather in June and the delayed tourist season, there was a decline in the production of soft drink/beer/water packaging bottles. Compared to the previous year, the volume of production was between 70-90%. Better weather and a surge in demand are expected for July (90-100%). Bottle and cap manufacturers are confident that annual production and sales will just slightly fall short of 2019.

Blown cans and other containers

This segment is booming everywhere. Demand is good, almost insatiable. Especially in the field of disinfectant packaging. Both June and July show a value between 90-100% compared to the same months last year. Moreover, the production volume is expected to be similar to last year, but in many cases even higher for the whole year.

Fiber production

In June, filament production was 50-70% higher than in June of the previous year. This is in line with trends in the furniture industry. Big-bag production was at 70-90%. Improving values for July are likely - between 70-90% - but for the year as a whole, production in these segments is also unlikely to reach 90% of the year 2019. Production of spunbond and nonwoven textiles for household and health use is still at its peak, with production volumes in both June and July, but also for the year of 2020 as a whole will exceed 2019 values.

Injection molded household products

There was a smaller decline in June, with a production volume of 70-90% in general, but the market is slowly recovering from July, with production and sales expected to reach 90-100% by the end of the year compared to the same period last year. Converters are hoping to get away with a drop of less than 10% for the year as a whole.

Injection molded packaging materials

Both June production data and July expectations showed 90-100% production. Converters expect this for the whole year as well.

Injection molded parts for the automotive industry

The most delicate area. Few responses were received, production was very low. In many cases, it doesn’t even reach 50%. This is because Central European carmakers produce in one shift. And their spare parts stocks are high compared to production. As a result, they order less and buy less. The outlook for the year as a whole is not encouraging either, with production expected to fall by more than 30%.

Appliances

In both the large and small appliance segments, production was between 70-90% in June compared to the previous year. Converters expect similar production for July and the whole year. This is also supported by the compounders who work for this segment.

Tube manufacturing

It shows a mixed picture. Production in June averaged 70-90% over the same period last year. The values were rather close to 90%. Further improvements are expected by pipe manufacturers by July, probably with values between 90-100%. For the year as a whole, production and sales are expected to exceed 90% compared to 2019.

Production of insulating materials

Compared to the same period last year, June brought in an average of 9-10% of sales. A decline is expected in July. On the one hand it is seasonal and on the other hand due to demands-related reasons. It already seems certain that despite the relatively good numbers, production and sales in 2020 will not reach 2019 levels.

Prices

For polymer prices, we expect a steady rise until September. The usual autumn price peak is expected to move further towards the end of September. In July, polymer producers tried to implement a monomer-following price increase. This was also the case with the exception of PP, and in the case of LDPE there was even a price increase that exceeded the price change of ethylene monomer.

July contract monomer prices:

  • Ethylene (C2) contract price +84 EUR/t (764 EUR/t),
  • Propylene (C3) contract price +75 EUR/t (705 EUR/t),
  • Styrene monomer (SM) contract price +86 €/t (763 €/t)

You can read more about it in our weekly price report, try it for the next 4 weeks for free.

We would like to inform you that 4 Central European Plastics Meetings will be held (29-30 SEPTEMBER 2020 // X-BIONIC SPHERE - SAMORIN, SLOVAKIA). Polymer manufacturers, distributors of machine manufacturers in one place. Our priority is the future of the plastics industry

Register now at the link below:
https://plasticsmeeting2020.b2match.io/