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Assocomaplast, the Italian association for plastic and rubber processing machinery, has issued a preliminary statement on the sector's struggling performance in 2013. The organization said it expects the value of production at Italy's plastic and rubber machinery companies to be just under 4 billion euros in 2013, close to the value in 2012, but it expects growth in 2014.
Official data on foreign trade for January-September 2013 showed a 2.8 percent fall in exports of machinery compared with the same period of 2012. A decline in machinery imports to Italy in 2013 indicates the continuing economic difficulties in the country.
Assocomaplast, nonetheless, showed cautious optimism for 2014, due to early signals of economic strengthening in Italy shown in November figures released by Confindustria Research Centre. It said support for "prudent optimism" also comes from a recent survey of its members, where half the sample reported a recovery in their revenues in the second half of the year compared with the first half. More than 40 percent of respondents reported a positive trend in orders in November, compared both to October 2013 and to November 2012.
"The recent K in Düsseldorf has probably provided a positive impulse here: most of those interviewed confirmed that they had had a high number of quality contacts at the German fair, obviously hoping that many may transform into actual orders," said the association.
Giorgio Colombo, president of Assocomaplast, said the domestic and export markets had both proved difficult in 2013. "The current year  is suffering from the deep crisis in the domestic market and the slowdown – which was particularly accentuated in the second half of the year – in certain very important export markets, including China, Brazil and the United States," he said.
In January-September 2013, exports to all but one region declined: Europe -4.4 percent, North America -4.9 percent, Asia -1 percent. Exports to Africa increased by 23 percent.
Colombo looked for positive developments in the domestic plastics and rubber markets. He said: "Some segments (packaging, pharmaceuticals, etc.) appear brighter, while others — automotive and construction first and foremost — are still suffering the effects of the recession. The first months of 2014 will be very important in allowing us to assess these signals."
He acknowledged that uncertainty will continue for Italian machinery companies in both the domestic and export markets.