FocusIndia April-Sept PP imports triple; sustainability in doubt

05 November 2009 06:11  [Source: ICIS news]

By Prema Viswanathan

SINGAPORE (ICIS news)--India’s imports of polypropylene (PP) in the April-September period almost tripled year on year to 230,000 tonnes, driven by strong demand, but sustaining this growth may be difficult given a strong boost to domestic supply, industry sources said on Thursday.

“Imports of PP into India averaged around 40,000 tonnes/month in this period, but the monthly import volumes are likely to taper off to 20,000 tonnes in the next two quarters,” said one source.

Domestic supply would be augmented due to the start-up of a large PP plant in Jamnagar, owned by Indian petrochemical major Reliance Industries, which achieved full production in September, industry sources said.

“The year 2010-2011 could see imports declining a little year on year to just a little above the 2007-2008 levels, as Reliance’s new 900,000 tonne/year plant will narrow the demand-supply gap,” said an end-user.

He estimated that PP imports for the year-to-March 2011 would slip to 260,000-270,000 tonnes, although everything would depend on how strong domestic consumption would hold.

For the fiscal year ending 30 March 2010, India’s PP imports were expected to jump at an annual rate of 28-40% to 320,000-350,000 tonnes, according to industry estimates.

PP consumption is expected to grow in double digits in the current year from the 1.8m tonnes recorded in 2008-2009, with some sectors likely to grow at a much faster rate, market sources said.

Segments such as non-wovens, biaxially oriented PP (BOPP) and PP random copolymer pipe grades are forecast to grow at above 20%, they said.

“The capacity of BOPP converters is expanding rapidly this year, absorbing huge volumes of BOPP film,” said a supplier.

“Non-woven or fibre-grade PP is also being increasingly preferred over raffia-grade PP for rice packaging, as consumers become more discerning,” he added.

The spread of the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, in India provided the impetus for the surge in demand for non-woven PP from the surgical masks segment in recent months, the supplier said.

Demand for PP random pipes is also on the rise, said a PP exporter to India.

“Many of these newly popular grades are still in short supply among domestic producers, so the potential for imports of these grades is quite strong,” he said.

Supply tightness caused by the 10-week shutdown at Haldia Petrochemicals’ PP plant in West Bengal could also increase the appetite for imports in the near term, market sources said.

At the end of October, Haldia Petrochemicals shut its 520,000 tonne/year naphtha cracker, along with its 550,000 tonne/year polyethylene plant and 270,000 tonne/year polypropylene unit, for maintenance and expansion.

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By: Prema Viswanathan
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