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Japanese Market Still Suffering From Economic Woes.

AGR remains low, prices are down and demand is stagnant in many sectors.

Recent figures indicate that there is good news and bad news in the Japanese market for nonwovens. Total nonwovens production in Japan exceeded 300,000 tons in 1998, which further increased in 1999, but the annual growth rate of production remained fairly low in 1999, between 1.8% and 2.4%. Recent nonwovens production classified by manufacturing process is shown in Table 1; statistics were provided by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. Although nonwovens are used in various sectors, demand is now stagnant in many end use markets due to the economic depression that began in the early 1990's. The annual rate of production increase remains low. Prices have a tendency to decrease, causing many manufacturers' nonwoven sales to decrease. Price competition among nonwovens manufacturers has become increasingly severe. In short, nonwovens producers across the board are facing unfavorable circumstances.

Major Japanese Markets

Nonwovens produced in large quantities--needlepunched, chemically bonded, spunbonded/melt blown nonwovens--make up 70% or more of the overall production of nonwovens in Japan. For instance, 68,786 tons of spunbonded/melt blown materials were produced in 1999, with 95% of that amount targeting spunbonded nonwovens. On the other hand, melt blown nonwovens represents a small portion of the Japanese nonwovens market.

Figure 1--showing nonwoven production classified by end use--is based on statistics from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. Major uses of nonwovens fall under industrial, medical/sanitary and household categories, which amount to 71.7% of the total. These fields have increased production, while other fields have been held in check due to lack of demand.

A Maturing Hygiene Market

Medical/sanitary nonwovens and household nonwovens combine to account for 139,000 tons of total production, with 100,000 tons going toward disposable diapers and wipes. Demand for these hygiene products began to increase in the 1980's, which helped boost demand for nonwovens throughout the next 20 years. The production of nonwovens for use in diapers and wipes currently constitutes approximately one-third of the entire production of nonwovens in Japan. However, the diaper and wipes markets have matured in the past two to three years, forcing nonwovens manufacturers to compete with one another for price and unfavorably influencing their sales proceeds. Manufacturers have been making efforts to develop new applications for nonwovens such as automotive battery electrode separators. Demand for such products remains low because the production of battery or hybrid cars has not yet grown. Under the circumstances, Japanese nonwovens production is expected to continue to have a low growth rate for some time.

Kin Ohmura is the president of the Osaka Chemical Marketing Center, which specializes in nonwovens, synthetic fibers and industrial textiles. His Far East Report appears every other month in NONWOVENS INDUSTRY.
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Comment:Japanese Market Still Suffering From Economic Woes.
Author:Ohmura, Kin
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:May 1, 2000
Words:466
Previous Article:Imports Rise, Exports Fall.
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