FOCUS: ‘Excellent prospects’ for global nonwovens industry

By Tara Hounslea
Wed Nov 28 2012, 16:26 PM
Prospects look good for the nonwovens sector judging by statistics released this year

Nonwoven production volumes bounced back after the global economic downturn in 2010 but the 2011 statistics released this year seem to demonstrate that the positive growth trend is here to stay. Those who are arguably the best placed to know, Ian Butler, director of market research and statistics at INDA, and Jacques Prigneaux, market analysis and economic affairs director at EDANA, agree.
“The worldwide nonwovens industry’s prospects are excellent and it remains an exciting industry in which to be involved,” they confirmed at the launch of the two organisations’ combined Worldwide Outlook for the Nonwovens Industry report.
According to EDANA’s latest annual statistics on nonwovens production and deliveries, production volume in Greater Europe grew by 5.7% in 2011 and several market segments recorded their best output ever in both tonnage and square metres, including baby diapers, medical, personal care wipes, civil engineering, automotive and agriculture.


The Europe-based organisation found that the European total delivered reached 1,897,748 tonnes and 55,740 million square metres. In global terms, the production of Greater Europe represented approximately 25%.
The 2011 expansion was at a slower pace than the increase of 10.9% recorded in 2010 but continued the positive trend of the industry following the global economic crisis.
“Each production process obviously has its own specific trends depending on the evolution of the market segments,” said Jacques Prigneaux, EDANA’s market analysis and economic affairs director. “Spunmelt production recorded two successive growths of more than 9% in 2010 and 2011. Within the fibre-based products, while thermo-bonded nonwoven production has been quite flat over the last two years, spunlace production recovered the most, and was by far the most important drylaid output.”
Although local production in the European Union continues to dominate, the exports to the rest of the world have never been as high as the current period for both volume and value. The statistics showed that last year, import into the region from China increased by 24% and China became the EU’s most important supplier. But for each sub-category of nonwovens, the EU27 remained a net exporter of products.
Meanwhile in Asia, statistics from the Asia Nonwoven Fabrics Association (ANFA) put total production at 3,096,928 tonnes in 2011, an increase of 7.4% compared with 2,882,225 tonnes in 2010. Similar to the pattern seen in Europe, the rate has slowed from a 10% increase in 2010 and 13.1% in 2009 but confirm a steady growth trend.
A new report from Textiles Intelligence suggests that Asia will account for over half of global nonwoven fabric production by 2020, growing from its share of 40% in 2011.
Spunmelt production was the most common with 45%, followed by needlepunch (26.2%), spunlace (10.9%), thermal bonded (6.1%), chemical bonded (5.2%), other/drylaid (4.4%) and wetlaid (2.1%). But Textiles Intelligence has found that the fastest growth category is spunlace nonwoven fabric, with an average increase of 20% per year between 2008 and 2011 and a rise of 21.8% in 2011 alone.


China is said to have the lion’s share, making up to two-thirds of the total, at 2,054,700 tonnes, a significant up-turn since 2001 when production was just 417,000 tonnes. Today, China produces 69.6% of the nonwovens in Asia, followed by Japan (10.6%), Korea (7.9%), India (6.3%) and Taiwan (5.6%).
China’s Research Centre reported that the country’s imports of technical textile and nonwovens combined amounted to $3.4 billion in 2011, while the export value of technical textiles and nonwovens amounted to $16.3 million, a 26% increase compared with 2010. The main exporting countries are Korea, India, Japan, the US and Vietnam.
Just quarter of a century ago, Chinese nonwovens production was less than 20,000 tons according to the vice president of ANFA (Asian Nonwovens Fabric Association) Wang Yanxi. In 2010, it was reported to be 1.88 million tons, made up of spunbond (0.95 million tons), needlepunch (0.48 million tons) and spunlace (0.16 million tons). As the Chinese economy grew and living standards improved, demand for nonwoven is said to have grown by 10% per year.
But Mr Yanxi suggests that with the 12th Five Year Plan, the Chinese nonwovens industry will continue to expand but at a slower rate.  Nonwovens consumption per capita is said to be 1.4kg, compared with 4kg in the US and 2.7kg in Japan.


China and India account for over a third of the world’s population and these two countries look set to become the largest potential markets for nonwovens in their various end-use applications, including hygiene, medical, industrial and automotive.
The size of the technical textiles sector (which includes nonwovens) in India will reach $28.7bn from by 2016-17, according to officials from the government of India. This is a significant increase from the current size of $10.3bn and $7.6bn five years ago. Estimates suggest the industrial segment of the technical textiles market will grow at an annual rate of 11% and be worth 8% of the total technical textiles sector.


There was also significant rise in exhibitors at this year’s Techtextil Russia show, with organisers saying the technical textiles and nonwovens industry is poised to grow rapidly over the next few years as the market’s consumption starts to fulfil its promise.
“It is interesting that the market for technical textiles and nonwovens is dominated by imports,” said Peter Schwartze, president of the High-Tex from Germany show which was held at the Moscow event. “Russian manufacturers can only supply about 17% of domestic demand, which is ground for optimism in our sector.”
One significant development took place in October, when Russian and German companies signed a memorandum of co-operation for the production and processing of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fibre in the Ivanovo region with an investment of several hundred million euros. Governor Mikhail Men, who was present at the ceremony, said that the full realisation of this project will significantly change the position of the entire textile industry of not only the region but also of the country.
PKI Engineering Consulting MD Jens Henkel said that this project is of great importance to both countries. “With the help of modern German technology, using local Russian raw materials, you can create powerful production,” he said. “We are already in talks with several German banks to be included in this project.” He refrained from giving an exact figure of the contract but said: “it will be a very large investment of several hundred million euros.”
Governor Mikhail Men said that the site for the new production had been identified. “Now we are seeking maximum opportunities to invest in the necessary infrastructure in a selected area, which is usually done in a public-private partnership. This will significantly reduce the cost of the project,” he said.
Chairman of the Association of Entrepreneurs in textile and light industry of the Ivanovo region and general manager of Ivregionsintez Vasily Gushchin said that the launch of polyester production would increase the range of products available in Russia and the Ivanovo region in particular.
“In 2011, the consumption of synthetic polyester in our country exceeded 200,000 tons, of which the Russian production was zero,” he said.


Brazil, South America’s most influential country, an economic giant and one of the world’s biggest democracies, also presents a significant opportunity for nonwovens both in terms of production and demand.
According to the Brazilian Nonwovens and Technical Textiles Industry (ABINT), last year Brazil’s nonwovens industry grew 12% and 10.5% in 2012. Over the past five years technological investment in the sector has totalled around $180m and investment over the next two years is projected to be $160m. As hygiene is the key market segment, Brazil’s three largest producers in the country have large spunmelt operations (Companhia Providencia, Fitesa and Polymer Group Inc).
Almost half of the demand for nonwovens products in Brazil (40%) are said to come in the form of diapers and other sanitary items such as baby wipes, with the remainder being focused on the mattress industry, agriculture and medical sector.

Beyond BRICs

Companies will invest $5bn in nonwoven technology in Turkey over the next five years, according to organisers of the Hightex 2012 Istanbul Technical Textiles and Nonwovens Exhibition.
Teknik Fuarcilik said technical textile and nonwoven production has doubled in Turkey over the last ten years and cites market research that suggests annual consumption in the country and its neighbours slightly outweighs its production, which currently stands at 110,000metric tons per year.
EDANA’s Jacques Prigneaux said confirmed this positive outlook for Turkish nonwovens, saying production was 167,000 tons in 2011, up from 129,000 in 2010 and from 89,000 in 2006.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) could also provide significant potential for nonwovens consumption, particularly in the hygiene sector.
EDANA statistics found that 162,000 tonnes of staple fibre nonwovens and 136,000 tonnes of spunmelt nonwovens were produced in MENA in 2010, this being expected to rise to 177,000 and 248,000 respectively by 2015. Hygiene (35%), wipes (28%) and construction were found to be the main applications.
“Approximately a third of the world’s babies are born in the Middle East and Africa as a whole,” said Michael Verstraeten, business development manager (MEA) for Henkel at the third edition of EDANA’s Middle East Symposium earlier this year. “And the 15 countries with the highest birth rate are all in Africa. MEA has the highest unrealised diaper potential, and the key to realising it is identifying where the disposable income will reach the critical level for diaper use.”
He said that in the short term, MENA, South Africa and Angola are the main opportunities to focus on. In the longer term, Nigeria, Ghana and Ethiopia are showing strong GDP growth, but Ethiopia is very long term.


Leave a Reply