FocusEU polystyrene trade balance continues to widen

25 July 2013 17:43  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--The EU's external trade surplus for polystyrene (PS) with the rest of the world increased for the fourth consecutive month in May, Eurostat data released last week indicated.

At 5,387 tonnes, the volume of imports were up slightly month on month in May, and 2.2% higher than during the same period a year earlier, but exports exhibited a more significant increase, outpacing the quantity one year ago by 6.8%. Exports levels increased by 7.4% month on month to 26,221 tonnes.

The increase in exports from the EU countries means that the volume of material flowing out of Europe in May exceeded the amount entering Europe by almost three to one. External sales by European suppliers have been gathering momentum each month since February and year-to-date numbers - 114,140 tonnes - are now 8.2% higher than for the same period of 2012, just over three times as high as the volume of imports for January-May 2013.

Taking a slightly longer term look at the official statistics, it appears that the positive trade gap may actually be widening. Year-to-date numbers to the end of May reveal an import decline of 23.5% from 2011 to 2013, while the corresponding change for exports is an increase of just over 22%.

The rising price of PS is reflected in EU trade figures, as shown by Eurostat. The consequence is that the decline in the value of imports over the last two years has been less than the fall in tonnage terms, but the increase in value of exported PS has been greater than its rise in volume.

With approximately €172.5m ($227m) of PS sold from January to May 2013, there has been a 58% increase in revenue terms, compared with two years ago.

A European PS producer commented on Thursday, 25 July that probably the main reason for the up-trend in exports is sales to nearby markets, chiefly to Turkey, where there is strong demand in the appliances industry, principally refrigerators. Demand was also strong in Russia and other non-EU countries in eastern Europe.

The producer agreed that it was notable that the opening of the E-STYRENICS (Egyptian Styrene and Polystyrene Production Company) plant in Alexandria, Egypt has not yet had a significant impact on the presently low level of PS imports into Europe. However, the Egyptian producer is still a relatively recent entrant into the European market, and it may be premature to interpret too much from the statistics yet.

($1 = €0.76)

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By: Peter Gerrard
+44 208 652 3214



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