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Fibers for nonwovens: polypropylene maintains lead in slow first quarter.

Nonwovens and fiberfill shipments in the first quarter of this year decreased from the closing quarter of 1991; in both cases, however, sales were better than in the opening quarter last year

The year 1992 opened on a moderately optimistic note for the staple-based nonwovens industry. True, domestic fiber producers' shipments of olefin, polyester and rayon staple to roll goods producers in the first quarter dropped to 139 million pounds, 6% (9 million pounds) under the previous quarter. However, measured against the year-ago performance (often a better indicator) sales were moderately (2%) higher (Table 1).
 Table 1,
 (million pounds)
 1990 1991 1Q 91 4Q 91 1Q 92
Olefin 233 272 63 71 68
PET 240 237 57 60 55
Rayon (est) 72 70 17 17 16
Total 545 579 137 148 139
Sources: Fiber Economics Bureau, Inc, and trade estimates.

Olefin continues as the dominating fiber in nonwovens, having pulled ahead of polyester a year ago. Olefin sales in the first quarter of this year were 68 million pounds, down three million pounds from the previous period but an impressive five million pounds or 8% above the figure for the corresponding quarter of 1991. Its market share, which has been moving steadily, if not spectacularly, upward, reached 48% in January-March 1992.

The nonwovens industry is by far olefin staple's biggest customer; roll goods producers now account for 62% of all olefin staple sold. The only other significant outlet for olefin staple is the carpet face yarn market, which amount to less than half the nonwovens poundage.

Olefin's progress in nonwovens has been mostly at the expense of polyester. The two fibers were on approximately even footing (43% and 44% each) in 1990, but since then polyester's share has declined to 40%, while olefin has jumped to 48%. In the latest quarter polyester sales were 55 million pounds, down five million pounds (8%) from the previous quarter and two million pounds less than in the corresponding 1991 months.

In contrast to olefin, polyester producers have many customers in other market areas, such as broad weaving or knitting. Consequently, they depend upon the nonwovens industry for only about 10% of their business.

Rayon staple has been a minor participant in the nonwovens industry for some time now. its market share in the latest period was only 11%. However, unlike the case of olefin or polyester, there are significant imports of rayon staple for the nonwovens market. Canada is the main source, but there are others as well. If these imports were counted, rayon's share would probably increase to about 15%, with corresponding slight reductions in share for olefin and polyester staple.

Fiberfill Developments

Sales of polyester fiberfill in the opening three months this year were 109 million pounds, 3% under the fourth quarter but strongly (12 million pounds or 12%) ahead of the corresponding three months of 1991.

It is interesting to compare the size and growth trends in polyester sales for nonwovens, fiberfill and the traditional textile markets (Table 2).
 Table 2
 (million pounds)
 1990 1991 1Q 91 4Q 91 IQ 92
Nonwovens 240 237 57 60 55
Fiberfill 376 430 97 112 109
Other Markets 1399 1461 314 414 396
Total 2015 2128 468 586 560
 (percent of total)
Nonwovens 12% 11% 12% 10% 10%
Fiberfill 19% 20% 21% 19% 19%
Other Markets 69% 69% 67% 71% 71%

In general, the importance of the nonwovens and fiberfill markets to polyester producers has fallen off, with nonwovens performing worse than fiberfill. From 1990 to the latest period, the nonwovens and fiberfill combined share has dropped from 31% to 29%, while the traditional markets have increased their share correspondingly.
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Title Annotation:first quarter 1992
Author:Harrison, David
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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