Epoxy resins

Understanding this complex market with end-to-end supply chain analysis  

Discover the factors influencing epoxy resins markets

Demand and supply chain challenges have the potential to cause shortages in the epoxy resins market. Scarcity of supply can be caused by plant closures, extreme weather conditions, logistics issues, and increases in crude oil prices can all force downstream manufacturers to delay production or find alternatives.

The main applications for epoxy resins include adhesives, high-performance coatings into construction, protective industrial and marine coatings, electrical/electronic laminates and adhesives, and structural parts for the automotive, aerospace, and aircraft industries. They are high-performance thermosetting resins with excellent adhesion, chemical and heat resistance, plus electrical insulating properties.

ICIS epoxy resin prices provide an important benchmark. Access actionable market news in real time and view reports that place market trends in context, including the impact of supply disruptions, changes in demand or capacities and trade flow opportunities between the regions. ICIS monitors developments in key upstream markets including BPA and ECH feedstocks, and movements in crude oil, glycerine and propylene markets. We also provide analysis of downstream markets. This includes the impact of consumer trends, demand shifts and seasonal demand.

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Latin America stories: weekly summary

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Here are some of the stories from ICIS Latin America for the week ended on 5 July. NEWS Mexico’s Altamira petrochemicals players breathe sigh of relief as Beryl weakens Fears that Hurricane Beryl could cause widespread disruption to petrochemicals production in the Altamira hub, in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, have now subsided as the hurricane weakens on its path through the Caribbean. Brazil’s Braskem still facing logistical woes at Triunfo facilities Brazil’s polymers major Braskem is still facing some logistical challenges at its facilities in Triunfo, in the floods-hit state of Rio Grande do Sul, according to a letter to customers seen by ICIS. Brazil’s automotive 2024 output expected lower as ‘uncontrolled’ imports keep rising Brazil’s automotive trade group Anfavea this week downgraded its forecasts for production in 2024 due to ever-rising vehicle imports – mostly from China, with several producers signing a letter to the government asking for higher import tariffs on cars. US dominates base oils exports to Brazil with around 75% market share The US remains the largest exporter to the Brazilian base oils market, with the country’s lead widening in 2024, according to an expert on Tuesday. INSIGHT: Chem shipping to get break from Panama Canal, tariff front-loading The Panama Canal Authority (PCA) is allowing more traffic to pass through the waterway, while the rush to ship goods before the start of tariffs should end soon – all of which should give chemical shippers some relief from elevated freight costs. Brazil's manufacturing recovers but faces pressure on currency depreciation Sales growth in Brazil's manufacturing is being dented by challenging economic conditions, currency depreciation and order postponements after the floods crisis, analysts at S&P Global said on Monday. Mexico’s manufacturing expands in June but new export orders, job creation fall Mexico’s manufacturing expanded in June and remained practically stable from May on the back of factory orders rising, which kept production healthy, analysts at S&P Global said on Monday. Colombia's manufacturing remains in contraction in June Colombia’s manufacturing sectors remained in contraction territory in June as a further decline in new orders led to reduced output, analysts at S&P Global said on Tuesday. Colombia’s fiscal plans based on ‘rosy’ growth assumptions – analysts Plans presented by the Colombian government to reduce its fiscal deficit are based on “rosy” assumptions for growth and are likely to be missed, according to analysts. PRICING Higher hydrous ethanol prices reflect strong sales performance Hydrous ethanol prices rose this week, reflecting ongoing strong sales performance in the market. Surging PET prices in Brazil and Mexico for July Prices for PET in Brazil experienced an upward trend during the first week of July, driven by the ongoing rise in international freight rates. This increase reflects the continued influence of escalating global shipping costs on the local market for PET resin. Innova amends July PS price increase in Brazil Innova amended a price increase to Brazilian real (R) 1,200/tonne ($218/tonne), excluding local taxes, on all grades of polystyrene (PS) sold in Brazil, effective 4 July, up from previously announced R750, according to a customer letter.

08-Jul-2024

Americas top stories: weekly summary

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News from the week ended 28 June. US June propylene contracts rise on higher spot prices US June propylene contracts for the majority of market participants settled up 2 cents/lb on higher spot prices. US consumer confidence and ICIS leading business barometer fall in June US consumer confidence fell in June, as did the ICIS US leading business barometer (LBB). Aditya Birla Chemicals plans new US epoxy facility in Texas Aditya Birla Chemicals is planning to build a new epoxy facility in Beaumont, Texas, according to the company. Flat chemical prices to increase in coming quarters; volumes booming – US HB Fuller Most chemical prices have stabilized, and a few are posting small rises, a trend which should strengthen in coming quarters as global manufacturing picks up, executives at US-headquartered adhesives producer HB Fuller said on Thursday. SHIPPING: Panama Canal increases drafts, to add another transit slot on 5 August The Panama Canal Authority (PCA) has increased the maximum allowable draft to transit the Neopanamax locks effective immediately, announced that another increase will take effect on 11 July, and will add an additional booking slot in the Neopanamax locks during Booking Period 2 for booking dates beginning 5 August.

01-Jul-2024

Flat chemical prices to increase in coming quarters; volumes booming – US HB Fuller

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Most chemical prices have stabilized, and a few are posting small rises, a trend which should strengthen in coming quarters as global manufacturing picks up, executives at US-headquartered adhesives producer HB Fuller said on Thursday. Celeste Mastin, CEO at the company, said sales volumes in Q2 had posted a “strong performance” and came higher than initially expected, with regions such as Europe also improving and some sectors in China “growing like crazy”. The improvement in manufacturing prospects globally prompted HB Fuller to increase its 2024 financial guidance earlier this week after it published its Q2 financial results, which showed sales rose by 2%, year on year, and earnings by 10.1%. As an adhesives producer, HB Fuller's raw materials include tackifying resins, polymers, synthetic rubber, plasticizers and vinyl acetate monomer (VAM). The company’s fiscal year starts on 1 December; its fiscal Q2 covers March-May. EARLIER THAN PLANNED RECOVERYAfter its longest downturn ever, chemicals may finally be savoring the green shoots of a recovery in earnest. HB Fuller, at least, is. According to Mastin, the notable improvement in Q2 foresees a healthier second half of the year, with the improvement across all the company’s divisions and regions it operates in. “We have had a strong volume performance and, actually, we were planning volume growth in the mid-single digits for the second half, but we are already seing that, which explains Q2 [performance],” she said, speaking to reporters and chemical equity analysts. “We track the prices of 4,000 raw materials – 80% they are flat or increasing slightly. We think from Q3 onward the trend will be for increases over time.” HB Fuller’s upbeat assessment contrasts with what the company issued after its fiscal Q1. At the time, Mastin said sales volumes were still weak and, if that situation persisted, prices of specialty chemicals, which had so far held up reasonably well, could also fall. The improvement as of late has prompted the company to also raise its selling prices forecast – from an initially expected negative pricing impact of 2-3%, the company now forecasts a negative impact of 1-2%. Those pricing negative effects, however, will be overcome by growth in sales volumes, the CEO said. Mastin went on to say the automotive sector is one where HB Fuller is “aggressively” trying to gain market share, adding the strategy is paying off with sales volumes up between 20% and 30% compared with last year. “In China, we have a very strong position in automotive. But we are seeing healthy performance in other sectors as well, such glass, aerospace, or electronics – the latter is growing like crazy there. Equally, we are also seeing strong growth in India,” said Mastin. HB Fuller’s CFO, John Corkrean, also present at the press conference, added that, after a poor Q1, even the beleaguered European economy – under pressure since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the consequent energy prices shock – also showed some positive signs in Q2. “We have seen a return to volume growth in all market segments. Some spots such as hygiene remain a weak spot, but we have also seen there an improvement from Q1 and we expect to see further improvement in the next two quarters,” said Corkrean. “Europe was slow in Q1 but that improved in Q2 in , for example, the construction-related businesses. These are positive signs we expect will continue in coming quarters.” Front page picture shows glue being applied Source: Shutterstock

27-Jun-2024

Brazil’s chemicals unions join companies demanding higher tariffs on ‘unprecedented’ crisis

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Brazil’s chemicals producers, represented by trade group Abiquim, have gotten on board with peer groups and trade unions in their lobbying for higher import tariffs for dozens of products as the government’s decision looms. Led by Abiquim, a total of 28 trade groups, trade unions, industrial development groups, one professional association and one company have signed a manifesto pleading for higher import tariffs to safeguard an industry which, in their view, is being threatened by lower priced imports which are produced with lower environmental standards. “The Brazilian chemicals input production chain, fundamental to the country's economic and technological development, faces unprecedented challenges that threaten its very existence and the future of sustainable solutions for Brazilian industry,” said the manifesto. “Ensuring measures to protect the trade balance is vital to maintain the operation of the chemical chain and attract new investments.” In May, chemicals producers – via Abiquim but also as individual companies – proposed increasing tariffs in more than 100 chemicals, most of them from 12.6% to 20%, in a public consultation held by the Brazil’s government body the Chamber of Foreign Commerce (Camex). A decision is expected in August as the latest. Other trade groups in the chemicals chain, such as Abiplast, representing plastics transformers, do not support higher tariffs as most of their members import product to meet their demand, and are doing their own lobbying not to increase tariffs. ABIQUIM LOBBYING GETS PARTNERSAs well as Abiquim, other trade groups within chemicals signed the document, such the Brazilian Association of Alkali, Chlorine, and Derivatives Industry (Abiclor); the Brazilian Association of Fine Chemical, Biotechnology and Specialty Industries (Abifina); and the Brazilian Association of Artificial and Synthetic Fiber Producers (Abrafas) also signed the document. In total, 11 trade groups and 12 trade unions signed the document, as well as industrial development groups and other players in the chemicals chain. See bottom for full list of signatories. The backing of the unions is important because it is likely to resonate in the corridors of power in Brasilia, where the left-leaning government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva got into office thanks in part to the votes of the industrial workers constituency who voted for Lula’s Workers Party (PT) in 2023 under the promise of more and better paid industrial jobs. “The Brazilian chemicals input production chain, fundamental to the country's economic and technological development, faces unprecedented challenges that threaten its very existence and the future of sustainable solutions for Brazilian industry. Ensuring measures to protect the trade balance is vital to maintain the operation of the chemical chain and attract new investments,” said the manifesto. “What we are witnessing by allowing a surge in imports of products without environmental commitments is the failure to comply with a global agenda, with negative contributions to the fight against climate change.” As the left-leaning Lula cabinet aims to increase public spending, the manifesto also touches on Abiquim’s calculations in the decrease in tax receipts by the Brazilian Treasury in 2023, as a consequence of lower imports – the trade group said the state’s receipts decreased during that year by Brazilian reais (R) 8.0 billion ($1.45 billion). “[The decrease in tax receipts] directly impacts investments in the production sector and in several other areas of public policy. Continuing to allow the unbridled entry of chemical products is a paradox for the policy that Brazil has planned in the context of neo-industrialization, while imports already account for 50% of demand in the chemicals industry,” said the manifesto. “Because of this, some plants are idle, with preventive maintenance anticipated, while others are hibernating plants. And this affects not only the production of chemical inputs, but an entire broad supply chain of raw materials, services, and energy supply related to the sector.” The Abiquim-led manifesto was also signed by several trade unions in some of Brazil’s key petrochemicals hubs, such the Chemists Union of Sao Paulo; the Union of Chemical Industries of Rio Grande do Sul (Sindiquim), and the Union of workers in the chemical, petrochemical, plastic and pharmaceutical industries of the State of Bahia (Sindiquímica Bahia). According to Abiquim’s figures, Brazil’s chemicals production and related chain employs around 2 million workers, representing 12% of the country’s industrial GDP. Earlier in June, the director general at Abiquim said in an interview with ICIS that the request for higher tariffs was only one of the proposals presented to the government to safeguard producers' global competitiveness. “What we have presented to the government is the need to undertake action on three main fronts: in the short term, import tariffs, but in the medium and long term we also need a structural plan to address natural gas prices, which are seven times higher in Brazil than in some other jurisdictions, as well as a stimulus plan covering the whole chemicals production chain,” said Andre Passos. The list of signatories to the manifesto also includes one company, one professional association, and two industrial development groups: TRADE GROUPS 1. Chemical Industry Association (Abiquim) 2. Association of Piped Gas Distribution Companies (Abegas) 3. Association of Alkali, Chlorine, and Derivatives Industry (Abiclor) 4. Association of Fine Chemical, Biotechnology and Specialty Industries (Abifina) 5. Association of Pharmaceutical Inputs Industry (Abiquifi) 6. Association of Glass Industries (Abividro) 7. Association of Independent Oil and Gas Producers (ABPIP) 8. Association of Artificial and Synthetic Fiber Producers (Abrafas) 9. Association of Campos Elíseos Companies (Assecampe) 10. Association of Natural Gas Pipeline Transportation Companies (Atgás) 11. Federation of Industries of the State of Alagoas (FIEA) TRADE UNIONS 12. Federation of Chemical Workers of the CUT of the State of Sao Paulo (Fetquim – CUT SP) 13. Single Federation of Oil Workers (FUP) 14. Unified Chemical Union 15. Chemists Union of Sao Paulo 16. Plastic and Paint Industries Union of the State of Alagoas (Sinplast-AL) 17. Industry Union of Chemical Products for Industrial Purposes of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Siquirj) 18. Industry Union of Chemical Products for Industrial Purposes, Petrochemicals and Synthetic Resins of Camaçari, Candeias and Dias D'Avila (Sinpeq) 19. Industry Union of Chemical Products Chemicals for Industrial and Petrochemical Purposes in the State of Sao Paulo (Sinproquim) 20. Union of Chemical Industries of Rio Grande do Sul (Sindiquim) 21. Union of Chemists of ABC (Sao Paulo state region) 22. Union of workers in the chemical, petrochemical, plastic and pharmaceutical industries of the State of Bahia (Sindiquímica Bahia) 23. Union of Workers in the Chemical, Pharmaceutical and Fertilizer Industries of Baixada Santista (coastal Sao Paulo area) 24. National Confederation of the Chemical Branch of CUT (CNQ-CUT) INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT GROUPS 25. Camacari Industrial Development Committee (Cofic) 26. Industrial Development of the Rio Grande do Sul Pole (Cofip RS) PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS 27. Federal Council of Chemistry (CFQ) COMPANIES 28. Forca Quimica ($1 = R5.51)

26-Jun-2024

Aditya Birla Chemicals plans new US epoxy facility in Texas

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Aditya Birla Chemicals is planning to build a new epoxy facility in Beaumont, Texas, according to the company. The 35 acre facility is strategically located on the US Gulf Coast near major energy and materials providers and will house its first manufacturing and research and development facility for its Chemicals business in the US. No nameplate capacity was disclosed. The initial investment of up to $50 million will involve a state of the art advanced materials site that will develop and manufacture customized specialty products and epoxy solutions for the US market. The company noted that this project will position them to capture a significant part of the over $2 billion market for US epoxy solutions as its customers across the construction, renewable energy, automotive and aerospace sectors look to take advantage of opportunities created by the Inflation Reduction Act. This is expected to create at least 32 new full-time jobs and is currently estimated to be completed in Q1 2027, according to a Jefferson County tax abatement. Epoxy resins are used as adhesives on metals and construction materials, as well as in coatings and automobiles. Thumbnail: Processing solid wood with varnish and epoxy. furniture restoration. Source Mikalai Sayevich/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

26-Jun-2024

Thai bio-ethylene plant key to growing SCG Chemicals' green plastics portfolio

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Thailand's SCG Chemicals (SCGC) has obtained government approval for its 200,000 tonne/year joint venture bio-ethylene plant in Map Ta Phut, paving the way for the company to reach its target of producing 1m tonnes/year of green polymers by 2030. SCGC, Braskem joint venture firm eyes green downstream PE output Final investment decision on bio-ethylene project likely by Q4 SCGC focusing on increasing recycled plastic production and use The Thai baht (Bt) 19.3 billion ($526 million) bio-ethylene plant will use agricultural products such as sugarcane, cassava and corn as feedstock, the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) in a statement issued on 14 June. The project will be operated by Braskem Siam Co, a 51:49 joint venture between Brazilian producer Braskem and SCGC. The plant, which will built in Rayong province, will enable production of bio-based polyethylene (PE) in Thailand which will be the first of its kind outside Brazil. SCGC’s parent firm Siam Cement Group (SCG), in a 11 June slide presentation posted on its website, said that it will likely make a final investment decision (FID) on the bio-ethylene project by the fourth quarter of this year, the company said in presentation slides posted on 11 June. The chemicals arm of the Thai conglomerate has set a target of production 1 million tonnes/year of green polymers by 2030, by leveraging strategic partnerships and innovative technologies to drive its expansion, it said. As of end-2023, the company was producing around 218,000 tonnes/year of environment-friendly plastics. SCGC Green Polymers Growth Plans Source: SCGC As part of its green polymer expansion plans, SCG in February this year announced a Bt173 million investment to hold a 3% stake in Netherlands-based renewable chemicals technology firm Avantium. Avantium‘s proprietary technology can be used to produce a variety of sustainable chemicals, including bio-based polyethylene (PE) and bio-based polyamide (PA). SCGC and Avantium last year agreed to develop polymers based on sustainable carbon feedstocks such as those from biomass or carbon from air, and scale up a pilot plant in the next two years to produce 10 tonnes/year of the material. On the recycling front, SCGC is aiming to increase its sales volumes of green polymers from odorless post-consumer recycled resin (PCR) high density polyethylene (HDPE) via its partnership with Portugal-based recycled plastic producer Sirplaste. The Thai producer owns 70% of Sirplaste. In September 2023, SCGC achieved a fivefold increase in production capacity for odorless HDPE PCR resin to 45,000 tonnes/year following installation of new machinery at Sirplaste's plant, based on SCG’s June 11 slides. SCGC has also invested in Kras, a Dutch company that specializes in managing waste materials, to develop a comprehensive recycled plastic production system that meets global demand, especially in Europe, "where the need for environmentally friendly packaging is continuously growing". In May, SCGC and Dow signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to transform 200,00 tonnes/year plastic waste into circular products by 2030. The initial phases of the partnership will concentrate on building a robust materials ecosystem in Southeast Asia. This will involve establishing partnerships with existing suppliers for PCR and developing advanced technological solutions for waste sorting, mechanical recycling (MR), and advanced recycling (AR) in Thailand. Separately, SCGC parent firm SCG has also received approval to invest Bt6 billion in a co-generation power plant within the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate in Rayong province. This plant will have a production capacity of 130 megawatts (MW) of power and 160 tonnes of steam per hour and will primarily supply electricity to factories within the industrial estate. Focus article by Nurluqman Suratman ($1 = Bt36.72) Thumbnail image: At the Laem Chabang Port in Chonburi Province, Thailand, 24 January 2022. (Xinhua/Shutterstock)

19-Jun-2024

PODCAST: Glimmers of hope for Europe acetone and phenol derivative chain in a difficult climate; freight/logistics key

LONDON(ICIS)–European downstream demand remains low due to inflation and high interest rates. Add logistics issues and a continuous flow of imports to that, and the doom of European petrochemical industry begins. But with the recent reduction in interest rates by ECB and increased tariffs on Asian EVs, there is hope that the acetone and phenol derivative chain might come back to its glory. Europe ICIS editors Jane Gibson (acetone and phenol), Heidi Finch (bisphenol A and epoxy resins), Meeta Ramnani (polycarbonate), Mathew Jolin-Beech (methyl methacrylate) and ICIS senior analyst Michele Bossi (aromatics and derivatives) discuss the latest development in imports, bans and interest rates that are likely to impact the acetone, phenol and derivatives markets. Acetone market balanced to tight on export demand, slim import volumes and curtailed op rates as phenol struggles to find demand Cut of interest rates by ECB and tariffs on Chinese EVs increases hope of recovery of demand Dependency increases on Asian imports for PC BPA and epoxy players keep close eye on upstream, logistics and regulatory factors Challenging global as well as regional logistics impact MMA supply in Europe Podcast edited by Meeta Ramnani

14-Jun-2024

Styrolution to permanently shut Sarnia styrene plant in Canada

HOUSTON (ICIS)–INEOS Styrolution will close its 445,000 tonnes/year styrene production plant in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, by June 2026, the company announced Tuesday. Styrolution has been involved in a dispute with Canadian government officials over the plant after a nearby indigenous group complained about benzene emission levels from the site. The company shut the plant for maintenance in April after the complaints surfaced. But Styrolution said that was not the reason for the plant closure. “Our decision to permanently close the Sarnia site by June 2026 is irrespective of the current situation,” the company said in a news release. Styrene producers in North America, as well as globally, have been battling poor economics due to over-capacity. North American styrene operating rates have been under 70% so far this year. China, once a key outlet for North American styrene, has added significant styrene capacity over the past three years. China commissioned 3.7 million tonnes of styrene capacity in 2023 alone. “This difficult business decision to permanently close our Sarnia site was made following a lengthy evaluation process and is based on the economics of the facility within a wider industry context,” Styrolution CEO Steve Harrington said. “The long-term prospects for the Sarnia site have worsened to the point that it is no longer an economically viable operating asset.” Even with the loss of styrene supply to the market, the Sarnia plant closure in April has had no impact on styrene spot prices. “Additional large investments that are unrelated to the potential costs of restarting operations would be necessary in the near future. Such investments would be economically impractical given today’s challenging industry environment,” Harrington said. In late May, Canada’s federal environment minister extended an order imposing stricter benzene emission controls on plants operating at the Sarnia petrochemicals production hub in southern Ontario, close to the US border and Detroit, Michigan, for two years. The order came after an Ontario provincial ministry suspended production operations at Styrolution's Sarnia styrene plant following the complaints from residents about potentially high benzene emissions. In addition to styrene, the Sarnia plant has ethylbenzene production capacity of 490,000 tonnes/year, according to the ICIS Supply and Demand Database. Styrolution operates two additional styrene plants in North America – the 770,000 tonnes/year facility in Bayport, Texas, and the 455,000 tonnes/year plant in Texas City, Texas. The Sarnia plant represents approximately 7% of North American nameplate styrene capacity. Styrene is a chemical used to make latex and polystyrene resins, which in turn are used to make plastic packaging, disposable cups and insulation. Major North American styrene producers include AmSty, INEOS Styrolution, LyondellBasell Chemical, Shell Chemicals Canada, Total Petrochemicals and Westlake Styrene. Thumbnail shows a cup made of polystyrene (PS), which is one of the main derivatives of styrene. Image by ICIS.

11-Jun-2024

APIC ’24: S Korea petrochemical output, exports to grow at low single digits

SINGAPORE/SEOUL (ICIS)–South Korea’s petrochemical production is projected to grow at 2.2% this year, with exports rising by an average of 2.8%, faster than domestic demand’s 1.3% increase, industry data showed. “However, this is mainly due to the base effect of a significant decrease in production from the previous year,” the Korea Petrochemical Industry Association (KPIA) said in a report prepared for the Asia Petrochemical Industry Conference (APIC) being held in Seoul on 30-31 May. “The supply and demand situation is expected to improve this year as global supply declines, but it will take a long time to resolve due to the large accumulated capacity expansion,” it said. Full-year petrochemical production is expected to grow to 22.1 million tonnes, “largely due to the base effect of large-scale regular maintenance in the previous year”, KPIA said. In 2023, production declined by 2.1% to 21.7 million tonnes. “Production is also expected to increase y-o-y due to the restart of facilities that were shut down due to the deteriorating market conditions and an increase in the utilization rate of companies in anticipation of an improvement in the market,” it added. The country’s petrochemical export volumes are projected to reach 12.8m tonnes in 2024, with growth slowing from the 3.1% pace posted last year. South Korea is heavily dependent on exports, with their share to total production at around 58% in 2023, based on three major sectors, namely synthetic resin, synthetic fiber and synthetic rubber. S Korea 2024 Petrochemical Industry Forecasts (in '000 tonnes) Products Production Exports Exports share to total output (%) 2023 actual export growth (%) 2024 projected export growth (%) Synthetic resins 15,641 9,787 62.6 -0.4 3.0 Synthetic fibre raw materials 5,846 2,604 44.5 21.0 1.5 Synthetic rubber  655  429 65.5 -6.8 7.0 Source: KPIA “Korea’s domestic market is stagnant, so most of the increased production will be exported,” the KPIA said. Domestic petrochemical consumption this year is projected to post a minimal increase to 10.4m tonnes, following a 6.3% contraction in 2023. A sizeable chunk of South Korea's petrochemical exports goes to China, whose own demand has been slowing down amid an economic slowdown. Focus article by Pearl Bantillo Additional reporting by Nurluqman Suratman

30-May-2024

Brazil’s chemicals importers mobilize against tariffs hike proposed by producers

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Brazil’s importers of chemicals are lobbying the cabinet not to implement the hikes to import tariffs proposed by the country’s producers, represented by trade group Abiquim. Brazil’s Chamber of Foreign Commerce (Camex), a body under the government’s umbrella, concluded on 30 April a public consultation about import tariffs on chemicals. In it, Abiquim presented more than 60 proposals to hike import tariffs, while individual companies presented dozens more. In total, the proposals contemplate hikes in import tariffs in more than 100 products, most of them to be raised from 12.6% to 20%. Some proposals, however, aim to raise some import tariffs from 9% to 35%. A decision by Camex is expected in coming weeks. IMPORTERS MOBILIZEA key actor lobbying against the tariff hikes is Brazil’s plastics transformers trade group Abiplast, who benefit from imports into the country. Abiquim often describes those imports as coming into Brazil at “depredatory prices” which are putting some national production chains at risk due to unfair competition. China’s overcapacities continue casting a shadow in the global chemical industry, and Latin America’s historical trade deficit in the sector makes the region the perfect ground for Chinese producers to send their product, at times below costs of production. On the other hand, Abiplast and consumer groups have said a hike in import tariffs would only increase prices for consumers and industrial players alike and would only benefit Brazil’s chemicals producers. “There should be no increase in import tariffs as this is not a viable solution at this moment, nor at any time in the future. An increase would result in direct increases in prices in the Brazilian market,” said to ICIS a spokesperson for the trade group. Earlier in May, sources in Brazil’s chemicals sector said to ICIS it would be unwise to hike import tariffs right now, as the country reels from severe flooding in Rio Grande do Sul, which has a strong plastics sector, and when more imports may be needed. The floods have brought the state’s industrial fabric to a standstill, although the petrochemicals hub of Triunfo, near Porto Alegre, restarted in mid-May albeit at a slow pace as infrastructure in the state is still heavily disrupted. Abiquim, however, remains unrelentless in its request for fast action, arguing that the restart at Triunfo, with Brazil’s polymers major Braskem leading the way, will be enough to guarantee supply, without the need for more imports. Braskem has a commanding voice in Abiquim. “We don’t agree [with any pause in the hike, if finally approved, because of the floods’ effect]. Braskem resumed operations last week and, furthermore, the high level of predatory imports [in past months] mean that resin producing companies had sufficient stocks to supply the market,” said to ICIS a spokesperson at the trade group. Abiquim is hopeful it will gain the day. His lobbying to the government has gone as high as President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, with whom the trade group and a few chemicals producers met last week in Brasilia to make their case for the import tariffs hike. Lula’s center-left cabinet has been since the start more friendly towards chemicals producers than his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, who favored a more free-market line. In 2023, the cabinet hiked import tariffs for several polymers twice, and reintroduced a tax break for chemicals called REIQ. Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT) main constituency is industrial workers, to whom the President promised during the electoral campaign to create more and better paid industrial jobs. Propping up domestic chemicals production would fall within that line of action. However, after Lula’s meeting with Abiquim, the backlash followed. According to a report by Brazilian daily Valor, Abiplast and 15 other trade groups have requested their own meeting with the President, hoping to stop the proposed increases in import tariffs. Among others, the groups opposing the hike include those representing sectors such as personal care, cleaning products, rubber articles, non-woven fabrics, paints, mattresses, toys, electronics, pharmaceutical products, food, polyolefin fibers, fabrics and clothing, footwear and civil construction. The groups said they were aiming to show to the President the “importance of tariff balance in maintaining industrial activities” in Brazil. BIG (AND CLOSED) CHEMICALS SECTORBrazil’s chemicals demand has always surpassed domestic supply, and around half of the country’s needs are covered by imports. That has been the case in the past few years. What has made the past year extraordinary is China dumping its product in Latin America, depressing prices – and margins for local producers. The fact that a 215-million market such as Brazil has not developed a bigger chemicals industry is surprising. Moreover, the country produces mostly commodity chemicals, which are to suffer from global downturns more than the higher-margin specialized grades. A source at Brazil’s chemicals industry, who deals with Braskem on a regular basis, was not impressed with Abiquim or Braskem’s strong stance in favor of higher tariffs. The source said it preferred to remain anonymous because “creating animosity by going against” the company’s position could put its business relationship at risk. “This [request for higher tariffs] is the cry of business mediocrity, which sees import restrictions as the solution to its productivity and technology problems. A country must not be built on protectionism but on investment in technology, productive capacity, creativity, and scale,” said the source. “Brazil's political class has never prioritized competition as a source of development. Businessmen want to be alone in their businesses and the Federal Government wants to keep only Petrobras [in the crude oil sector] as a form of political financing.” Petrobras is the state-owned energy major, which holds a commanding position in the market despite other foreign players having some licenses to explore for and produce crude oil. The source added that when import tariffs are hiked generally, for all foreign potential exporters to Brazil, that is very different to potential anti-dumping duties (ADDs) imposed against a certain country – in this case, potentially China. “If the request was about ADDs on China’s product, this would be reasonable. But Abiquim and Braskem's request for hikes in import tariffs will affect all imports and this is not correct … We need more competition, not less. With more competition, some companies would have to close their doors indeed," it said. “Other companies, however, those which are more efficient, intelligent and audacious, would grow. Competition is always good and bringing foreign companies to compete in the local market would be interesting. Whenever and invariably private companies need the government to survive, there is a decrease in productivity and investments in new technologies.” However, the government’s ears are so open to chemicals producers’ demands that, on top of two import tariffs hikes in 2023 and the reintroduction of REIQ, earlier this year the cabinet announced the imposition of ADDs on US’ polypropylene (PP). The measure was taken even though US PP imports into Brazil only represented 5% of the total in 2023 – 26,000 tonnes out of nearly 510,000 tonnes. Braskem is Brazil’s sole producer of PP as well as polyethylene (PE), the two mostly widely used polymers. A second source in the Brazilian chemicals distribution sector said the import tariff hikes could benefit all parts of the chain – apart from producers, distributors and transformers as well – but only if all players rise prices in line with the increase in the import tariffs. “If the tariffs are finally hiked, it could represent a problem for us at first if Braskem lowers its prices, for instance – my product acquired pre-import tariff hike would be more expensive and I would have difficulty placing it in the market,” said the distribution source. “If Braskem does not lower its prices immediately, I would be able to maintain my prices. But if prices drop, I would be facing higher costs and lower selling prices: my margins would be greatly squeezed.” Focus article by Jonathan Lopez Additional reporting by Bruno Menini

28-May-2024

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