Manufacturers have faced the conundrum of wanting end use markets to become more developed, meaning more customers, while not wanting manufacturing capabilities to advance, meaning more competition.
As the world’s population becomes more sophisticated—and controls more disposable income—they will come to demand more of the products that use nonwovens, namely disposable diapers and feminine hygiene items. This will expand the customer base of such key hygiene companies as Kimberly-Clark and Procter & Gamble, which should mean good things for the nonwovens industry. However, as these markets expand, one can expect that local players will arise looking to supply nonwovens to their own markets, and, as they grow, they could look westward for new customers.
Take China, for instance, between 1994 and 2004, nonwovens production there increased five-fold from 115,000 to 650,000 tons and this growth is expected to continue at least for the next five years. So far, it seems that much of this output is feeding local markets as operations are small and not cost efficient, making export to other regions not worthwhile. As these operations advance, however, there is always the threat that the nonwovens industry could go the same route as textiles, giving up significant marketshare to China.
And, China is not the only nation upping its nonwovens output. This month alone we report on two companies’ plans to establish operations in countries that haven’t seen much activity to date. In Egypt, a joint venture company called Egypt CTMC is set to erect a line near Cairo, while, in Algeria, a spunlace producer called Inotis will target wipes markets. These two announcements follow other new lines set for India and Pakistan unveiled in recent months.
What impact these emerging markets will have on larger markets in North America and Europe will probably not be felt for years but certainly producers around the world will be monitoring them closely.