Assocomaplast, the Italian trade association including over 160 manufacturers of plastics and rubber processing machinery, equipment and molds, reflected a continual revival in the first three quarters of 2016.
Analyzing the ISTAT data on Italian foreign trade, imports of plastics machinery rose by 8.5% compared with the same period of 2015, while exports have returned to positive values (+1.5%).
"In particular, the recovery in exports – which historically represent a significant share of national production – is an important signal for Italian manufacturers, after the negative performance that had characterized previous months," stated Assocomaplast President Alessandro Grassi. "For that matter, 2015 was a record year, the best ever, for foreign sales by Italian manufacturers in the sector. If the recovery is confirmed in the year-end balance sheet, we will see overall values that are fully worthy of note."
On a regional basis, Italian plastics machinery's exports to the principal market, Europe, have fallen off by a couple of percentage points, with a 58% share of the total. Within this context, EU markets show a drop in sales of 1.8% while extra-EU markets fell by a more limited -0.5%.
The former were influenced primarily by lower sales to Germany, the Czech Republic, the UK, and Romania This was almost counterbalanced by increasing sales to Poland (+15%), Spain (+15%), and Portugal (+77%).
With regard the rest of Europe, the critical situation in Russia continues to exert an impact. Italian exports to Russia for the sector have stalled at less than €36 million, as opposed to €47 million in the first nine months of 2015.
Assocomaplast observed a continuing positive trend in sales to the NAFTA countries, however this progress is driven exclusively by Mexico, which has more than doubled its Italian imports, while the US (-12%) and Canada (-26%) have fallen back.
In South America, the two principal markets show diverging trends: Brazil is still contracting strongly (-33% to less than €30 million) while Argentina shows an upward trend (+22% to nearly €24 million).
Italy's exports to Asia show positive figures both in the Middle East (nearly +7%) and the Far East (+8%). Sales to Iran continue their strong growth (from €11 million to €18 million), almost certainly attributable to the partial lifting of sanctions. Shifting further east to more significant markets, positive figures are recorded for China (+9% to €104 million), India (+42% and €43 million), South Korea (+39%, €14 million), and Vietnam (+62%, €13 million).
According to the association, a divide is also noted in Africa: a significant drop in average sales in the Mediterranean area attributable to lower sales to Morocco and Tunisia (whereas Algeria has been performing well) against strong growth in the Sub-Saharan markets thanks to increasing exports to South Africa, which is by the far the largest African market.
"Among other things, the major expectations among Italian manufacturers for the recent K exhibition were not disappointed," continued Grassi. "Indeed the shared feeling among those taking part in the three-year trade fair in Düsseldorf was of greater professionalism with respect to the past among the operators encountered at the fair and of a concrete inclination toward investment, which in many cases took the form of orders signed at the stands. The results of the fair thus give us strong hopes for the coming months."