The leader of a major Mexican plastics trade organization said that plastics processing growth should be higher than resin market growth this year and in 2012 — but others who follow the Mexican market are a little less optimistic.
Growth in Mexican plastics processing for 2011 could be 6 percent — double that of Mexico's expected growth rate for gross domestic product, Eduardo Martinez said Oct. 4 at the Plastimagen trade show in Mexico City. Martinez is president of Asociación Nacional de Industrias del Plástico AC (Anipac), a 300-member trade group that marks its 50th anniversary this year. Martinez also is an executive with Plastisor SA de CV, a resin distributor based in Mexico City.
His projection for 2011 and 2012 — when he said that double-GDP growth also is attainable — is higher than the 4.5 percent growth in resin consumption predicted for 2011 by Mexican consulting firm Grupo Texne. Martinez now expects Mexico's resin consumption growth in 2011 should match GDP.
“We're starting to think in different ways of measuring growth,” he said. “We've got many more machines making more parts, but lighter parts that use less resin.”
Martinez also said he was pleased that automakers now are doing engineering work in Mexico, rather than just production. And he stressed the need for Mexican processors to invest in technology training, which he called “a very important issue.”
“Many companies spend $1 million on a machine, but their operators are not well-trained,” he said. “If you buy a Mercedes, you don't give it to your gardener.”
Tracking the growth of the Mexican plastics market can be tricky, since there's no official source of resin sales data or of total plastic production. Data compiled by Rina Quijada, owner of Houston-based consulting firm Intellichem Inc. — and by consulting firm Centro Empresarial del Plastico SA de CV (CEP) in Mexico City — show lower growth rates than what others have predicted in 2010 and for 2011 as well.
In an interview at Plastimagen, Quijada said that Mexican sales of PP, PS and PVC might finish flat for the year. Mexican PE sales could provide a bright spot, growing 4 percent, she added. These results come after CEP pegged 2010 resin sales growth at less than 3 percent.
“The Mexican market has been weak in 2011, even for polypropylene, which had been one of the most versatile resins,” Quijada said. “Polyethylene has been helped out by the agriculture industry, but it hasn't been a good year overall.”
Consultant Eduardo de la Tijera, owner of Grupo Texne in Mexico City, said at Plastimagen that he's lowered his 2011 Mexican resin growth projection from 4.5 percent to “no more than 4 percent.”
De la Tijera said he's reduced his estimate because of slowing Mexican economic growth that's impacted consumer behavior. Changes in exchange rates between the American dollar and Mexican peso also have played a role, he said.
A sunnier picture was seen by those working for a number of materials firms that exhibited at Plastimagen 2011. Asahi Kasei Plastics North America Inc. — a compounder of PP and other resins based in Fowlerville, Mich. — has added four new warehousing sites in Mexico in the last year, according to marketing director Ramesh Iyer and Mexico sales manager Victor Mora. The new sites will allow customers to buy material in small lots, Iyer said.
Compounder Teknor Apex of Pawtucket, R.I., has seen Mexican growth for products based on PVC, thermoplastic vulcanizates and nylon in automotive, medical and other markets, according to western region vinyl manager Marcy Shay. Mexico vinyl sales rep Eduardo de la Garza said that Teknor's sales in Mexico are on track to be up 10 percent this year and could match that result next year as well.
Matrixx Group of Evansville, Ind., enjoyed strong first-half sales growth in Mexico, although the second half has cooled a bit so far, according to Mexico and South Texas sales manager Jorge Pinto. Sales of PP-based compounds for lawn and garden uses and small appliances have boosted Matrixx's sales in Mexico, he said.
Asahi Kasei, Teknor Apex and Matrixx all import material into Mexico from plants in the U.S. — but compounder RTP Co. of Winona, Minn., has a closer view, with a 60,000-square-foot plant in Monterrey. The firm employs 20 and operates four compounding lines at the site.
RTP's Mexican sales should be up “at least 10 percent in 2011,” according to George Yule, a vice president who also serves as general manager of RTP's energy business. Growth in 2011 has been sparked by a strong rebound in the automotive market, where RTP materials are used in safety systems, under-hood parts, powertrains and other uses.
The firm's sales into appliances, medical and aerospace applications also have been strong in 2011, according to regional sales manager Julio Sauceda. The appliance market has been boosted by manufacturers' search for energy savings, he said.
But challenges remain in the broader market, said Angel Oria, a director with Polimero y Materias Primas Internacionales SA de CV (Polymat), a resin distributor based in Mexico City.
Oria anticipates Mexican resin sales growth of 3-4 percent in 2011, which would be similar to what's expected of Mexican GDP. But that number represents a break from the market's history, where resin growth typically had been about 1.7 times GDP, he said at Plastimagen 2011.
“It's all of these things,” Oria said after attending a session on plastic biodegradability. “Environmental issues, pricing, the situation in the world economy. The automotive market is growing, but you're not going to buy a car if you're uncertain about your future.”
“Overall, the [Mexican plastics] market isn't as strong as it should be, but we're going to work to find growth.”