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Fibers for nonwovens: shipments dropped for the first time since 1985.

FIBERS FOR NONWOVENS

Shipments Dropped For The First Time Since 1985

1990 staple shipments for nonwovens of 545 million pounds represented a 20 million pound, 4% decrease from their 1989 record; there is some discrepancy in rayon figures for the year; on the brighter side, polyester fiberfill sales set a new record in the past year As most people expected all along, fiber shipments to nonmovens fell drastically in 1990, the first such decline the industry has felt since 1985.

According to the most recent figures released by the Fibers Economics Bureau, U.S. producers' shipments of polyester (PET), olefin and rayon staple to nonwoven roll goods producers in 1990 totaled only 545 million pounds, a decline of 20 million pounds, or 4%, from a record high just set a year earlier. These figures are contained in Table 1.

Table 1

PRODUCERS' SHIPMENTS OF STAPLE TO NONWOVENS millions of pounds (% of total)
Year Rayon PET Olefin Total
1975 137(78) 25(14) 14(8) 176
1980 147(42) 167(48) 35(10) 349
1985 114(28) 162(39) 136(33) 412
1986 126(27) 175(38) 166(35) 467
1987 125(24) 204(39) 198(37) 529
1988 122(22) 244(45) 181(33) 547
1989 (e)98(17) 272(48) 195(35) 565
1990 (e)72(13) 240(44) 233(43) 545


Within this declining total, however, olefin scored a major gain. Its poundage rose from 195 million pounds in 1989 to 233 million last year. At the same time, polyester, which had been consistently gaining market share in recent years, dropped by 32 million pounds, from 272 million to 240 million pounds. As a result, the two leading fibers for nonwovens are virtually sharing market leadership.

Rayon, the third fiber in the nonwovens business, again dropped in share of the market, officially claiming 13% of the business. However, rayon's share of the market is actually significantly higher than the domestic producers' figures cited here indicate. Since the Avtex closing there has been a significant increase in imports of rayon staple for nonwovens use, with Canada by far the largest source. More details on this are provided later in this article.

Some Bright Spots

If 1990 was a lackluster year for staple-based nonwovens, at least there were a couple of consolations. First, the fourth quarter shipment figures were significantly stronger than expected (Table 2). Indeed, at 144 million pounds they were the best since the second quarter of 1989, when 150 million pounds of fiber were shipped.

Table 2

DOMESTIC SHIPMENTS OF MAN-MADE STAPLE TO NONWOVENS millions of pounds (% of total)

Period Rayon PET Olefin Total

Quarterly Averages
1985 29(28) 40(39) 34(33) 103
1986 31(27) 44(38) 42(35) 117
1987 31(24) 51(39) 50(37) 132
1988 31(23) 61(44) 45(33) 141
1989 (e)24(17) 68(48) 49(35) 141
1990 (e)18(13) 60(44) 58(43) 136


Actual Quarterly Data 1989
1st Quarter 27(19) 68(48) 46(33) 141
2nd Quarter 28(19) 72(48) 50(33) 150
3rd Quarter 22(16) 66(47) 51(37) 139
4th Quarter (e)21(16) 66(49) 48(35) 135


1990
1st Quarter (e)19(15) 54(43) 52(42) 125
2nd Quarter (e)18(13) 60(43) 62(44) 140
3rd Quarter (e)18(13) 60(44) 58(43) 136
4th Quarter (e)17(12) 66(46) 61(42) 144


The second positive point is that the nonwovens business held up a lot better than the conventional textile markets for the three synthetic fibers. Specifically, sales to the weaving, knitting and carpet markets went from 2.3 billion pounds in 1989 down to 2.15 billion pounds in 1990, a fairly precipitous drop of 247 million pounds. Against that background, the 4% decline suffered by the nonwovens industry seems relatively modest.

Those who like to take a longer view might be interested in the figures in Tables 3 and 4, which compare 1990 results with those of the past decade. During that period, total domestic shipments of the three fibers increased by only 0.5% a year on the average. But the nonwovens market grew at an average of 4.6% annually, with the conventional markets showing a slight poundage decline in the decade.

Table 3

GROWTH OF FIBERS FOR NONWOVENS
 1980 1990 Lbs. CAGR(*)
 (mm lbs.) (mm lbs.) Change Change


Total Domestic

Shipments 2577 2695 +118 0.5%

Shipments To

Nonwovens 349 545 +196 4.6%

Shipments To

Other Markets 2228 2150 -78 -0.5% (*)CAGR--Compound Annual Growth Rate

Table 4

DOMESTIC SHIPMENTS OF STAPLE FIBER: NONWOVENS VS. OTHER MARKETS 1985-90 (million pounds)
 Total Shipped To All
Fiber/Year Domestic Nonwovens Others


Rayon
1985 324 114 210
1986 373 126 247
1987 383 125 258
1988 386 122 264
1989 338 (e)98 (e)240
1990 292 (e)72 (e)220
% Change, 1985/1990 -10% (e)-37% (e)+5%


Polyester
1985 1873 162 1711
1986 1999 175 1824
1987 2201 204 1997
1988 2312 244 2068
1989 2261 272 1989
1990 2015 240 1775
% Change, 1985/1990 +8% +49% +4%


Olefin
1985 280 136 144
1986 313 166 147
1987 341 198 143
1988 344 181 163
1989 363 195 168
1990 388 233 155
% Change, 1985/1990 +39% +71% +8%


Total Above
1985 2477 412 2065
1986 2685 467 2218
1987 2925 527 2398
1988 3042 547 2495
1989 2962 565 2397
1990 2695 545 2150
% Change, 1985/1990 +9% +32% +4%


Accordingly, while at the opening of the period nonwovens accounted for 13.5% of the domestic shipments as recorded, by last year nonwovens' share had risen to 20.2%.

By fiber, the degree of importance of nonwovens as a market varies widely from a very high 60% for olefin to a low of 12% for polyester. Rayon checked in at somewhere in between the two extremes (Table 5).

Table 5

THE IMPORTANCE OF NONWOVENS TO DOMESTIC FIBER SHIPMENTS (millions of pounds)
Year/Item Rayon PET Olefin Total
Total Domestic Shipments 324 1873 280 2477
Nonwovens (lbs.) 114 162 136 412
 % share 35 9 49 17


1986
Total Domestic Shipments 373 1999 313 2685
Nonwovens (lbs.) 126 175 166 466
 % share 34 9 53 17


1987
Total Domestic Shipments 383 2201 341 2925
Nonwovens (lbs.) 125 204 198 527
 % of share 33 9 58 18


1988
Total Domestic Shipments 386 2312 344 3042
Nonwovens (lbs.) 122 244 181 547
 % share 32 11 53 18


1989
Total Domestic Shipments (e)338 2261 363 2974
Nonwovens (lbs.) (e)98 272 195 565
 % share (e)29 12 54 19


1990
Total Domestic Shipments (e)292 2015 388 2695
Nonwovens (lbs.) (e)72 240 233 545
 % share (e)25 12 60 20


Clarification Of Rayon Figures

Before the final Avtex closing in 1989, imports of rayon staple for all markets were relatively small. In 1988, for example, they totaled only 20 million pounds and represented less than 5% of the fiber supply. Some 80% of these imports that year came from Canada. But 1989 saw a sizeable increase to 54 million pounds, 70% of which came from Canada. In that year, imports were 14% of the total supply.

Last year, imports more than doubled their 1989 volume, reaching 112 million pounds, with Canada's share dropping to 42%. In addition to the Canadian supply, which reached 47 million pounds, significant quantities came from Taiwan (17 million), Austria (15 million), Finland and the U.K. (seven million each) and Germany (five million). Imports last year amounted to 28% of the total rayon fiber supply, twice their 1989 share.

Although 1990 did see a decline in domestic shipments of rayon staple to all customers, the industry was running at capacity for most of the year because the Avtex closing had removed some 160 million pounds of capacity. Thus, the large imports of 1990 were, in the vast majority of cases, complementary to rather than competitive with the domestic industry's products.

Trade sources estimate that about one-third of the 1990 imported rayon staple went to nonwovens customers. This would work out to 35-40 million pounds last year. The 1989 imports for nonwoven uses are estimated at 20 million pounds, while 1988 was most likely in the eight to nine million pound range.

The total consumption of rayon staple in the nonwovens industry for the past three years would then look as follows:

1988 1989 1990

Domestic
Shipments 122 98e 72e
Imports 8e 20e 37e
Total 130 118 109


Thus, rayon's shares of the total U.S. market in 1988-90 were 23%, 20% and 19%, respectively, rather than the 22%, 17% and 13% shown in Table 1 as reported by the Fiber Economics Bureau (which only tracks domestic shipments).

Imports of PET and Olefin Staple

Imports of polyester staple have not been increasing very rapidly nor do they represent a major component of the total fiber supply. Last year, polyester imports were 123 million pounds, which was only 6% of the total fiber supply. Korea, with 50 million pounds, was by far the largest supplier. Other major sources were Mexico (19 million pounds), Taiwan (18 million), India (15 million) and Japan (11 million).

Very little of the imported fibers were utilized in nonwovens, although it is thought that perhaps 35-40% of these fibers went into fiberfill (see the following section on fiberfill).

Imports of olefin staple fiber are negligible.

Other Fibers In Nonwovens

There are two other manufactured fibers that find their way into nonwovens--nylon and acrylic--but the quantities are very small. Last year a total of 16 million pounds of the two fibers were shipped to nonwovens and flock manufacturers combined (12 million pounds of nylon and four million pounds of acrylic). But most of the nylon and some of the acrylic was used by flock cutters, with the result that the nonwovens use was most likely around five to six million pounds.

A more significant omission is cotton, consumption of which is said to be in the 75 million pound range. (While there is no official reporting data available on cotton shipments to nonwovens, the matter is discussed in greater detail in the feature article on Cotton in Nonwovens on page 32 of this issue.)

Fiberfill Developments In 1990

Unlike nonwovens and conventional textiles, polyester fiberfill enjoyed a banner year in 1990. Shipments of 376 million pounds were up 7% from 1989 and surpassed the previous record, set in 1988, by 19 million pounds, or 5%. While not growing as fast as nonwovens, fiberfill consumes considerably more pounds of polyester (see Table 6). Last year the fiberfill suppliers sold 1.6 pounds of fiberfill material for every pound of polyester shipped to nonwovens producers.

Table 6

PET SALES TO NONWOVENS/FIBERFILL (millions of pounds)
Year Nonwovens Fiberfill Total
1986 175 295 470
1987 204 349 553
1988 244 357 601
1989 272 350 622
1990 240 376 616


Change 1986/1990
MM Lbs. +65 +81 +146
CAGR +8.2% +6.2% +7.0%


CAGR = Compound Annual Growth Rate

The single largest market for polyester fiberfill is in the upholstered furniture industry, with stuffing for household textiles such as pillows, comforters, bedspreads and mattress pads also a significant market. Apparel applications (coats, ski jackets, snowsuits) are relatively small in relation to furniture and household textile uses.

As mentioned earlier, the fiberfill data shown above does not include imported fiber, which last year probably amounted to 45-50 million pounds, slightly more than in 1989.

Table 1 PRODUCERS' SHIPMENTS OF STAPLE TO NONWOVENS million of pounds (% of total)
COPYRIGHT 1991 Rodman Publications, Inc.
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Author:Harrison, David
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Jun 1, 1991
Words:1922
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