China's worst winter weather in decades, which state media say has killed at least 60 people around the country and knotted up the transportation system, has led to shortages of resin and electricity, including in the manufacturing hub of Guangdong Province.
It was difficult to assess the full impact for factories, however, and some observers suggested manufacturers may have been spared a more severe economic blow because many of them were already slowing down production for Chinese New Year, when millions of workers leave factories to head home for annual family visits.
Also potentially lessening the blow - the storm came after the peak export season for holiday shopping in North America, Europe and elsewhere, they said.
Still, there were reports of problems.
``Some of the converters have some difficulties getting cargoes,'' said Bingli Wang, polyolefins director in Shanghai for Houston-based consulting firm Chemical Market Associates Inc.
``Guangdong Province is now short of plastic because of the train problems.''
But Wang termed the shortages minor. Formosa Plastics Corp. of Taipei, Taiwan, seemed to echo that point, telling Bloomberg news service that the severe weather was hurting shipments ``slightly'' but not affecting production at its mainland factories.
The sharp cold weather and snowfalls also were straining power supplies severely, pointing out problems in the country's infrastructure.
The South China Morning Post in Hong Kong reported that electric utilities were rationing power, increasing the length of scheduled outages faced by factories and forcing them to make more use of polluting diesel generators.
``I would say that the electricity supply in Guangdong has been a problem in the last two to three years, and the snowstorm makes it worse,'' said Stanley Lau Chin-ho, vice chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries.
Manufacturers more dependent on mainland Chinese sources of raw materials had bigger problems than those more reliant on imported raw materials, he said.
And workers afraid of being stranded wanted to leave factories several days ahead of schedule, Lau said. Massive crowds estimated at more than 500,000 at times clogged the rail station in Guangdong's provincial capital of Guangzhou, trying to get trains home.
Officials at the Guangdong Plastics Exchange in Guangzhou said trading volumes were smaller because of the holiday, but transportation problems, especially from northern resin producers to southern markets, were leading to some shortages of plastic and putting upward pressure on prices throughout the country.
Ethylene-based PVC prices were up about $0.003 per pound, for example, while carbide-based PVC rose about $0.006 per pound, on prices that normally range from 47-49 cents per pound, the exchange said.