Where In the World Are Nonwovens?

By Karen Bitz McIntyre | May 20, 2008

After steadily increasing for nearly a decade, U.S. exports of nonwovens fell nearly 5% last year to 259 kilograms. This reversal came as imports of nonwovens from other countries gained nearly 15% the same year. While the U.S. still exports 70% more nonwovens than it imports, this data has been met with disappointment, as well as confusion, by the U.S. nonwovens industry at a time when the weakness of the dollar has made sourcing goods from the U.S. attractive to foreign businesses and most domestic exports expanded in many industries.

In their monthly column, Peter Mayberry and Jessica Franken, of INDA's Government Affairs Office (see Capitol Comments, page 28), take a look at where nonwovens leaving the U.S. are going. Nearly 85% of all nonwovens exports sent from the U.S. went to only 10 other countries and 25% were shipped to three countries—China, the U.K. and Honduras. Beyond this, there were 23 countries that received more than one million kilograms of nonwovens from the U.S. and a number of other countries—Peru, Vietnam, Bulgaria and Costa Rica—saw dramatic increases in the amount of nonwovens sourced here.

On the flip side, there were 61 countries that sent nonwovens to the U.S., five more than the year before, and of those, 40 sent more nonwovens than they did in 2006.

While much of these changes have to do with the volatile nature of the trade business, they also reflect just how dynamically the nonwovens industry is changing. New lines are constantly being announced around the world, creating more competition for U.S. producers looking to grow their businesses in developing areas that once could not source nonwovens domestically. At the same time, nonwovens producers in these areas are increasing sophistication, making their materials suitable for U.S. consumers.

Nonwovens' status as a truly global industry was ever-so apparent at last month's INDEX show in Geneva, Switzerland, where many new companies from once untapped markets—like the Far East, the Middle East and South America—presented their materials. Next month, Nonwovens Industry will present our review of INDEX, highlighting what's new in nonwovens. Until then, be sure to check out our breaking news page from the year's largest nonwovens exhibition at www.nonwovens-industry.com/index08 for the biggest news revealed at the show.

Karen Bitz McIntyre