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Where Have All The Flowers/Polymers Gone?

Business, China, Polyolefins
By John Richardson on 23-Jul-2009
pete seeger and friends.jpg

Source of Picture: http://backincccp.blogspot.com/

Peter Seeger’s most-famous song (being performed here by Pete, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins and Arlo Guthrie) was “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”

Perhaps a new version should be cut entitled, “Where Have All The Polymers Gone?” when you start to piece together China’s imports during the H1 2009 versus plastic-production sales and exports.

There have been some quite staggering year-on-year percentage increases in imports

High-density PE (HDPE) was up by 64%, low density PE (LDPE) by 94%, linear-low density PE (LLDPE) by 52% and polypropylene (PP) by 50%.

Chow Bee Lin of ICIS news reported on Monday that plastic end-product output in January-May this year rose to Yuan (CNY) 382 trillion ($56 trillion), a 7.46% increase over the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

But the production/sales ratio was at 97% – 1.46% lower.

Overall plastic-product exports declined by 12.13% in value terms to Yuan 40 trillion.
PE film and sheet exports fell by 10.1% during January-July over H1 last year with PP film and sheet exports tumbling by 37%

Toy-industry output rose 7.78% and so unless the economic stimulus has led to the Chinese buying more toys, this might be a problem.

Hardly surprisingly, more than 60% of local plastics consumption went into the construction industry as a result of all the infrastructure spending. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) imports rose 142% in the six months to June because of this strong demand and low operating rates among local producers. The domestic carbide-based players have seen their economics eroded on falling oil prices.

The home appliance subsidy scheme boosted plastics consumption in the washing machine and refrigerator application sectors, local appliance makers said.

China produced 16.9m units of washing machines and 24m units of refrigerators in the first five months of this year, which were 2% and 5.5% higher compared with January-May 2008, the MIIT add

BUT it was still unclear how much of this extra production has been absorbed by increased

The government has mobilised around 10,000 students from seven universities in order to raise awareness of the subsidy scheme and to assess how much the consumers have actually spent, again according to the MITT.

It’s interesting to note from this graph that, month-on-month declines in PE and PP imports since May.

View image

Strong PP imports up until as late as May interest were being driven by optimism over the impact on demand of the subsidy scheme and the peak turnaround season, which ran from April to June – according to an earlier story by Bee Lin of ICIS news.

Until firm evidence emerges that most of the washing machines and refrigerators haven’t ended up some warehouses somewhere, interest in imports may stay weak.

And for both PE and PP, the buyers know that supply has increased due to the end of the turnaround season with the prospect of some major start-ups of new plants in H2.