German plastic producers faced a tough market in 2014. However, they “have shown the industry to be robust, despite a difficult market background, in which initial optimism was replaced by some gloom in the course of the year,” said Josef Ertl, chairman of the PlasticsEurope Deutschland trade association, at a 7 May briefing on the industry's 2014 results.
Following 1.7 percent growth in 2013, production volume fell by 2.5 percent in 2014 to 19.4 billion metric tons, but sales continued to rise — up by 1 percent to 27 billions euros ($30.3 billion) — even though this was lower than the 5.8 percent rise in 2013.
Export volume continued to grow, for the third year running, up 3.2 percent to 12.6 million metric tons with value of 23.5 billion euros ($26.6 billion), while imports grew 3.5 percent to 8.8 million tonnes to reach a value of 15.1 billion euros ($16.9 billion).
The 28 European Union member states accounted for 87.6 percent of import volume and 72.1 percent of export volume, with Italy in first place here, followed by France, Poland and the Benelux region. The rest of Europe accounted for 11.5 percent of export volume, followed by Asia at 9.1 percent, America 5.1 percent, Africa 1.7 percent and Australia 0.2 percent.
Ertl observed that the industry is presently faced not only with high volatility in oil and raw material prices and currency exchange rates, but also “geopolitical conflicts” and slower growth in many world regions, especially in China.
With increasing competitive pressure from Asia in particular, the industry also continues to struggle at home with “complicated and expensive energy policies and increasing effort needed to comply with regulatory measures,” Ertl said.
He remained optimistic however, stressing that the search for innovative solutions such as in lightweight construction, alternative energy production means and 3-D printing will continue in future to provide high performance plastic applications “made in Germany.”
Ertl did not venture to forecast 2015 volume or turnover results for German plastics producers. But there is a chance of growth, based on a survey among German plastics processors conducted by their GKV trade association, showing 63 percent expecting increasing sales in 2015, 30 percent expecting no change and only 7 percent a reduction.