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Stats: China’s 2022 polymer imports lowest in five years

by Merve Sezgün -
  • 05/01/2023 (11:08)
ChemOrbis Stats Wizard suggests that China’s total polymer imports in the January-November period of 2022 were down 10% on the year to 18.1 million tons, the lowest cumulative volume since 2017. Although the December data are yet to be revealed, it is highly likely that the country will end the year with its polymer imports totaling below 20 million tons for the first time in five years.

After China’s import polymer market hit an all-time high of 28.5 million tons in 2020, this was followed by a yearly slump of 23% in 2021 and, most probably, another 10% in 2022.
2022 was a particularly challenging year for China’s polymer markets with long-winded downward trends for most products as end-use consumption took a big hit from tightened Covid curbs at home as well as slowing economies across the globe. In addition, China’s increased self-sufficiency particularly in PP and PVC played a key role in reducing its polymer imports. Considering the rising domestic capacities, it is possible to say that the country’s import polymer market size will continue shrinking in the years to come.

PPH imports lowest since 2008

January-November homo-PP imports fell by 10% from a year earlier to around 2.6 million tons, marking a 14-year low. They had witnessed a much larger yearly decline of almost 30% in 2021, meanwhile. The relatively smaller decrease in 2022 can be attributed to a combination of two factors keeping import demand better than the previous year:

  • Only 2.8 million tons of new PP capacity started up in 2022 while a massive amount was delayed to 2023
  • Domestic producers run their plants at reduced rates for most of the year.

Over the years ahead, China’s import PP market size will continue shrinking in line with the domestic capacity additions. The cumulative capacity expected to start up in the first quarter of 2023 totals more than 4.5 million tons/year, corresponding to nearly 40% of total PP capacity additions scheduled for the full year.

Jan-Nov HDPE imports down to around 5.5 mil tons

The country’s cumulative HDPE imports in the first eleven months of 2022 were reported at around 5.5 million tons, down 10% from a year earlier and 35% from the record high volume of 2020. The Jan-Nov volume was the lowest since 2016, ChemOrbis data show.

LLDPE imports declined 11% on the year to around 4 million tons during the same period, while LDPE edged lower by 1% to 2.7 million tons, both lowest since 2018.

2022 PVC imports see record low

Overall PVC imports in the January-November period were also down by 17% year over year to reach around 307,000 tons, indicating the lowest volume in the past 22 years, according to ChemOrbis Stats Wizard.

Styrenics imports also plunge in 2022

Cumulative imports for GPPS and HIPS in the January-November period slumped by 29% from a year earlier to 491,000 tons, the lowest volume since 2017.

As for ABS, imports stood at around 1 million tons in the period, the lowest since ChemOrbis began keeping records in 2009.

Saudi Arabia still ranks the top import supplier

Regarding the origins that are at the top of China’s overall polymer imports list, Saudi Arabia ranked as the first with almost 3 million tons in the January-November period of 2022. When compared to the same period of 2021, polymer imports from Saudi Arabia increased by around 3%.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia was followed by South Korea (2.4 million tons), the United Arab Emirates (2.2 million tons) and Iran (1.9 million tons).
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