Italian plastics machinery in doldrums; Plast 2021 opened for exhibitors

Italian plastics machinery in doldrums; Plast 2021 opened for exhibitors

Not surprising, given the Covid-19 pandemic and shutdowns of factories globally, Italian manufacturers of plastics and rubber processing machinery have had a difficult start to the year.

The import-export data recently published by ISTAT and elaborated by the Statistical Studies Centre of Amaplast (national trade association, member of CONFINDUSTRIA) points to declining foreign trade flows during the first three months of the year, with losses in March reaching 7% for imports and 13% for exports with respect to the same period in 2019.

Amaplast says it expects the figures to peak in the coming months and be “followed by long-lasting aftereffects, since the worst of the pandemic is not yet behind us - medically speaking - especially in the Americas. And it is not surprising that Italian plastics and rubber processing machinery exports have collapsed in this part of the world (-27%), nearly matching losses in Asia (-28%)”.

The current scenario sees the global economy in downturn, with investments at a standstill, also for plastics and rubber industries. The situation is particularly dire for automotive and building applications, where demand has fallen to extremely low levels. On the other hand, healthcare and cleaning/personal-hygiene product containers are doing well (packaging sector is generally holding steady).

Looking more closely at the trends in the main sales markets in the above geographical areas, in the Americas the following is the decline:

  • -24% for the US
  • -16% for Mexico
  • -37% for Brazil and in Asia:
  • -27% for China
  • -6% for India
  • -75% for Indonesia.

Concerning Europe, the decline is limited to -4%, with exports showing the following trends in the main outlet markets:

  • -3% for Germany
  • -40% for Spain
  • -21% for France
  • +40% for Poland
  • +8% for the UK
  • an eye-catching +218% for Russia, where strong oscillations, both up and down, are nothing new.

Sales in Africa remained broadly constant, although the two main outlet markets recorded the following downturns:

  • -20% for Morocco, major export destination in the Mediterranean region
  • -28% for South Africa, a prominent sub-Saharan market.

After the fall back in 2019, with 6% drops in production and exports (not surprising after eight years of growth), 2020 is not going to be a rebound year for the Italian plastics and rubber processing machinery industry, one of the country’s mainstays in mechanical engineering. It is difficult to make forecasts, but most certainly the return to pre-crisis levels will not happen in 2021, a full recovery only likely in 2022.

Meanwhile, after the suspension of all non-essential activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisation has commenced for Plast 2021 exhibition for the plastics and rubber industries, taking place in Milan, Italy, from the 4-7 May of next year.

Amaplast says roughly 450 direct exhibitors (excluding the represented companies) have already confirmed their participation in the fair, reserving an area of 35,000 sq m. One fifth of subscribers are foreigners, in addition to Italian branches of foreign machinery manufacturers.

The effects of the epidemic caused the cancellation of all events in spring-summer 2020 and moving the ones planned for this autumn to 2021. This was the case for various international plastics and rubber industry fairs and also for important events regarding the packaging and converting sector, such as Interpack and Drupa, originally planned for May and June 2020 but postponed to the period between early March and late April 2021.

Such changes led to the decision to confirm the next edition of Plast to 4-7 May 2021 and to reschedule the other four fairs of The Innovation Alliance (IPACK-IMA, MEAT-TECH, PRINT4ALL, and INTRALOGISTICA ITALIA), also due to the congestion at the Rho-Pero exhibition district.

Below, some key figures for the past edition of Plast, which took place from 29 May to 1 June 2018 in Milan:

  • total fair area: 55,000 sq m net
  • exhibition sectors represented: 75% machinery, 20% materials and products, 5% services
  • total exhibitors: 1,510 from 55 countries (57% Italian, 43% foreign; 1,049 direct and 461 via representatives)
  • satellite fairs: Rubber (rubber industry), 3D Plast (3D printing and related technologies), PlastMat (innovative materials)
  • visitors: 63,000 (27.5% from outside of Italy) representing 117 countries.

The list of participants is constantly updated and can be found on the website: plastonline.org


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