Some domestic makers of plastic bags believe a major competitive inequity is hurting them.
``Some of the major chemical companies are exporting raw product at much lower than domestic prices, and finished bags are coming in from Asia at extremely low prices,'' said Gary Duboff, president of Apple Plastics International Inc. of Rancho Dominguez, Calif., and chairman of Orange Plastics Inc. of Compton, Calif.
``The imports are hurting processors like us,'' he said in a recent telephone interview.
While not new, the problem has increased throughout 2002, Duboff said. Some chemical suppliers consider Asia to be a different market than North America and price their products to be competitive in each market, he added.
Duboff received the California Film Extruders & Converters Association's 2002 Leo Shluker Award at a Sept. 10 meeting in Norwalk, Calif. His contributions to the industry were recognized during the award ceremony.
Industry observers Robert Bauman and Howard Rappaport agreed generally with Duboff's observations about resin exports and bag imports.
``Historically, [resin] export prices are below domestic prices'' and discounted to compete in the Asian market, said Bauman, vice president of the plastics business practice for Nexant Chem Systems in White Plains, N.Y. Domestic polyethylene makers account for about 5 percent of the global PE market for bag production.
Domestic bag imports, principally from China, are growing rapidly and, in many cases, originate from U.S.-based film makers that use the imports to replace domestic production, Bauman said.
In the past five years U.S. imports of key film and bag categories have tripled, said Rappaport, polyolefins director with Houston-based consulting firm Chemical Market Associates Inc. More widely available government data has increased the bag-processing industry's awareness of the trade statistics.
So far in 2002, the domestic import volume of bags is flat vs. last year, Rappaport said. He was unsure whether Asian exporters are reducing shipments because of their own dynamics, or if U.S. demand is lower.
Duboff served as CFECA's president from 1995-97, when the trade group added 60 members. ``That's roughly equal to half of our current membership,'' said CFECA President Kevin Kelly, who made the presentation.
Duboff worked effectively to get the California Department of Weights and Measures to standardize film and bag product-labeling regulations.
Duboff grew up in New York, graduated from Long Island University in 1969 and co-founded Omega Plastics in Lyndhurst, N.J., in 1981.
He left Omega in 1986 and formed Apple Plastics in 1987 and Orange Plastics in 1990. Now, Apple and Orange together employ more than 500, operate six plants and have annual sales of more than $115 million.
Duboff owns a majority of Apple and one-half of Orange, with Orange managers holding the balance of the equity.