US PE exporters face more competition in Brazil

Chemical companies

Brazil PE Feb12.pngAs promised, the blog looks today at the performance of US polyethylene (PE) exporters in Brazil.

It was the fastest-growing of the major markets in 2011, as the wider economy benefitted from China’s demand. Since 2008, Brazil’s PE net imports have grown 78%, from 445KT to 793KT in 2011. But as the chart shows (based on data from Global Trade Information Services):

• NAFTA (red square) has seen its market share decline from 40% to 38%, despite its growing cost advantage since 2010 due to shale gas
• The reason is that China’s changing market dynamics (as discussed yesterday), has led to greatly increased competition

USA net exports have grown 51% over the period, from 171KT to 258KT. Canada’s exports have also increased from 6KT to 32KT. But at the same time, many more players have entered the market:

• Latin American exporters (blue line) have been the big losers
• Their share has dropped from 42% in 2008 to 24% in 2011
• The Middle East (dark blue) has jumped from 2% to 13%
• Europe (green) has maintained its position, rising from 8% to 10%
• SEA (brown) has jumped from 1% to 6%
• NEA (dark green) has increased from 3% to 4%
• India (purple) has gained a 1% share

In turn, this has led to a decrease in relative profitability. GTIS data also shows that Thailand, for example:

• Sold in 2008 at an average $1825/tonne, $100/t above USA levels
• But in 2011 it sold at $1546/t, $50/t below USA levels

Brazil’s market dynamics therefore highlight the increasing challenge being faced by US exporters. Countries no longer able to sell their output to China will not simply reduce production. Instead, they will target new markets, increasing competitive pressures around the world.

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