Italian imports of plastics and rubber processing machinery racked up a 23 percent year-over-year increase in the first half of 2018, a stark contrast to the lackluster performance on the exports front.
According to a Sept . 17 report published by Amaplast, the Italian plastics & rubber processing machinery manufacturers' association, the trade balance has remained positive by 1 billion euros ($1.17 billion), despite a 7 percent decline in the first half of the year. The association did not provide further detailed figures.
Amaplast attributes the boost in imports to a renewed faith in the domestic market, driven by the Italian government's investment incentives.
Italy's imports of injection-molding machines grew 31 percent year-over-year in the first six months of the year while the import of blow-molding machines grew 75 percent compared to the same period last year, said Amaplast without providing trade details.
The biggest jump was registered in the imports of flexographic printers, which posted a 111 percent vs. 2017.
According to the association, the flourishing Italian packaging industry — the principal consumer of plastic raw materials and processing machinery — is one of the main factors driving the improvement of the sector's performance.
The Italian Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Association (Ucima) reported a year-on-year growth of over 14 percent in 2017 for packaging companies in the local Italian market.
Germany maintained and significantly improved its leading position as an exporter of machinery to Italy, widening the gap with competitor China, which rank second.
Amaplast did not provide figures.
Furthermore, Germany remained the main destination for Italian exports in the sector in the first half of the year. With 61 percent of Italian exports headed elsewhere in Europe, the region led the list of export destinations for Italian machinery. However, a seeming Russian recovery in 2017 has waned with a 32 percent decline in exports.
Exports to Americas remained positive, although a 7 percent growth in NAFTA region was almost counterbalanced by the overall contraction of Central and South American markets.
Asia and Oceania both registered a drop, 6 percent and 21 percent respectively. The Asian decline was mainly attributed to weak sales in the Middle East.
In Africa, sales rose 23 percent, thanks to increased sales both to Mediterranean and sub-Saharan countries.
According to Amaplast, the commercial balance for injection molding machinery slipped into negative territory for the first half by about 14 million euros ($16.4 million).
“The July order books for Amaplast member manufacturers are stable with a slight trend toward improvement — with respect to both June 2018 and July 2017 — and this gives us reason to hope for a rebound in production and exports in the last quarter of the year,” said Amaplast president Alessandro Grassi, commenting on a recent end-of-period sentiment survey completed at the beginning of September.