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Moderate growth predicted for rubber consumption.

Consumption of synthetic rubber (SR) in North America was slightly more than three million metric tons (mmt) in 1995, an increase of 2.3%, according to the International Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers. North American SR consumption is forecast to increase to 3.112 mmt in the year 2000. In Latin America, consumption of SR decreased by 2.3% to 576 thousand metric tons (kt) due to weaker economies in Argentina and Mexico. With recovery already underway in Latin America, it is expected that SR consumption will reach a record 597 kt for a 3.7% increase in 1996.

North America

"Unprecedented in modern times, SR consumption in North America experienced a fourth year of expansion and is forecast to moderately increase in 1996," said Britt Theismann of the IISRP. "A fifth year of growth, moderate as it may be, is reflective of the economy as a whole. Economic expansion is forecast to continue through 1996, but at a slow rate," commented Theismann. An economic slowdown is forecast between 1997 and 1999 with recovery by 2000 resulting in a forecast rate of annual growth of 0.7% over the five-year period.

"One year ago we issued a conservative forecast growth rate for 1995 of 1.7%," said Theismann. "SR elastomer growth outpaced our forecast by 0.6%. Again, our Americas section statistical committee is forecasting conservative growth at 0.8%."

Continued robust tire production led the increase in SR consumption in 1995. Polyisoprene (JR) and butyl (IIR), combined due to IISRP disclosure rules, increased by 6% in 1995. Polybutadiene (BR) increased by 4.8% in 1995 to 529 kt while styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) increased by 3.5% to 881 kt.

Automotive production began very strong in 1995. but slowed in the third and fourth quarters. "Resultant, automotive related elastomers such as ethylene propylene rubber (EPDM), and acrylonitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) were increasing at rates close to 8% in the first five months. However, as auto production slowed, the rates of growth quickly neared the 4% level for EPDM and 1% for NBR. Consumption in 1995 for EPDM and NBR hit new record levels of 267 and 84 kt, respectively. Polychloroprene (CR), due to continued substitution, decreased by 8.3% in 1995.

Carboxylated SBR latex (XSBR) decreased by 2.5% from 632 to 616 kt. Noncarboxylated SBR latex increased from 78.6 to 90.2 kt for a 14.7% increase. A statistical reporting change is suspected for such an increase.

Tire elastomers are also forecast to remain flat tbrough the year 2000 with butyl and polyisoprene combined increasing only marginally. SBR increases by 3% from 881 kt in 1995 to 907 kt in the year 2000. BR is expected to increase by 4% over the term from 529 in 1995 to 553 in the year 2000 for an annual average rate near 1%.

Auto related elastomers, excluding tires, are forecast to remain flat in 1996, but increase by an average rate of 0.9% for EPDM and 1.3% for NBR through the year 2000. CR, with continuing substitution, is expected to remain flat through the year 2000.

Natural rubber continued to experience substitution in 1995 increasing from 1.1 mmt in 1994 to 1.116 mmt in 1995, or 1.3%. Natural rubber is expected to decrease by 0.4% in 1996 and remain flat through the year 2000. Due to limited supply, should rubber demand increase significantly over the period, it is expected that natural rubber would experience more substitution and the real growth would take place in SR.

Latin America

Theismann said, "In Latin America not all countries experienced a downturn. In Brazil, where economic expansion is well under way, SR consumption increased by 2.4%. Last year's currency and liquidity problems in Argentina and Mexico caused economic downturn resulting in a decrease of SR consumption by 11% and 13%, respectively." SR consumption in 1996 is forecast to increase in Argentina at 6.2%; Brazil at 3.9%; and in Mexico at 3.1%. Through the year 2000, overall SR consumption in Latin America is forecast to increase at an annual rate of 3.4% reaching 680 kt. "All of this is dependent on the debt situation in Latin America not becoming a crisis problem again as in late 1994 and early 1995," noted Theismann.

Europe, Middle East and Africa

In the year 200O, consumption in Western Europe will have risen to 2.5 mmt (1.9% p.a.); Central Europe to 368 kt (4.9% p.a.); and Middle East and Africa to 190 kt (2.9% p.a.).

Western Europe

In Western Europe SR consumption increased at a rate of 9.8% from 2.028 mmts to 2.2 mmt during 1994. In 1995 SR consumption is estimated to have risen by 3.8% to 2.3 mmt. Over the medium term an annualized growth rate of 1.9% is predicted, leading to a projected consumption of 2.5 mmt in the year 2000. Highlights in Western Europe include:

In Western Europe, due to the growing demand for tires with lower rolling resistance, the consumption of emulsion SBR has stabilized while solution SBR continues to increase. As a result, the consumption of solution SBR is expected to increase from 113 kt in 1995 to 172 kt by the year 2000 (8.8% p.a.). Total SBR, emulsion plus solution plus high styrene, will increase by a modest 1.3%.

High-styrene SBR is showing zero growth, reflecting the pattern in the shoe industry. Demand for BR in 1995 is expected to have shown a 2.5% growth due to both increased production of tires with low rolling resistance and its use in plastics modification.

Automotive production in Western Europe increased by 6% in 1995. As a result, consumption of EPDM and solid NBR increased in 1995 by 2.2% and 3.1%, respectively. CR registered a decline in the same period of 4% due to the continuing trend of substitution by other SR elastomers. For auto-related elastomers, annual average increases to the year 2000 are expected to be 2.3% for EPDM, 2.2% for NBR solid, and nil growth for CR.

NR consumption expanded by 5.1% during 1995 from 890 kt to 935 kt due mainly to the growth in the production of truck tires. NR is expected to grow at an annualized rate to 1.1% to 988 kt by the year 2000.

Total synthetic rubber demand is forecast to grow at 1.9% annually from 1996 to 2000.

Central Europe

Economic recovery in Central Europe has been stronger than earlier forecast, reflecting higher estimated consumption through the year 2000. Steady growth of 4.9% for SR, and 10.2% for NR (used mainly in tires) is forecast as industry restructures. Non-tire elastomers are expected to grow faster than European averages: EPDM at 14.9%, NBR at 4.6% and CR at 5.3%.

The IISRP is of the view that markets in Europe (west and central) are becoming increasingly harmonized, and that developments in Central Europe can no longer be isolated. Changes in manufacturing patterns may mean that, while growth in Western Europe will be flat, the development of growth will still be seen when Europe is considered as a whole.

Middle East and Africa

In the Middle East and Africa, steady growth, particularly in the tire industry, is expected to result in consumption of 190 kt of SR by the year 2000 for an average annual growth rate of 2.9%. NR is expected to increase at an annual rate of 2.0% to 210 kt

The IISRP members produce 90% of the world supply of SR. Its members are headquartered in 21 countries.
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Publication:Rubber World
Date:Apr 1, 1996
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