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In 2018, the German plastics and rubber machinery manufacturers generated a turnover plus of 2% again compared to the previous-year period.

"The growth rate of 3% originally predicted for 2018 could not be reached. Nevertheless, we are pleased about the positive all-year results as in particular towards the end of the year, deterioration of the market became already apparent," explained Ulrich Reifenhäuser, Chairman of VDMA Plastics and Rubber Machinery.

In 2018, German manufacturers of plastics and rubber machinery suffered a drop of 1% in orders on their books compared with a year earlier. This already hinted at the turning point towards the end of the year. The extremely long boom phase of 10 years of uninterrupted growth had come to an end.

It is obvious that 2019 cannot achieve the good results of the previous year. In the first quarter of 2019, the sector booked 10 % fewer orders than in the same quarter a year earlier.

This trend is likely to continue in the course of the year. For this reason, VDMA Plastics and Rubber Machinery expected a turnover minus of at least 10%.

Negative influencing factors: automobile manufacture, image loss and trade conflicts

The plastics and rubber machinery sector is currently facing great challenges in the form of negatively influencing factors. Firstly, there is the cyclical downturn which was due after ten years of growth. However, this downturn is reinforced by great insecurity presently prevailing in the automotive sector. "Investments are virtually at a standstill," explained Thorsten Kühmann, Managing Director of the association. "Companies that are very close to this sales market already perceive this downturn even more intensely. But also in the packaging sector, use of plastics materials is increasingly being questioned," Kühmann added. "In this sector, the bad image of plastics today has a major impact."

Furthermore, the latent trade conflict between the US and China is causing shifts in supply chains and insecurity in markets all over the world. In Europe, there are uncertainties due to the continued unclear situation regarding Great Britain's exit from the EU as well as Italy's immense national debt.

China the most important export market

In 2018, the top position of Germany's major export countries was again held by China where plastics and rubber machinery valued at853 million (+ 19%) were exported from Germany. Never before have so many machines been exported to one single country from Germany. Moreover, apart from exports, half a million euros worth of plastics and rubber machinery were manufactured in the country. This makes China by far the most important overall market.

After holding the top position for three years, the US now ranks second in the list of major export countries. With an overall export value of 820 million, 3% fewer plastics and rubber machines were exported to the US than in 2017.

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