China’s total output of nonwovens in 2004 was 755,000 tons with a growth rate of 22.8% (see Table 1) and this growth can largely be attributed to gains in spunbond and spunlace technologies. Spunbonded nonwovens currently account for 43% of the Chinese market and this type of nonwovens is growing 32.2% annually there. Spunlace, meanwhile, is growing 61.4%, but from a smaller base than spunbond or needlepunched.
The total output of nonwovens in China is estimated to reach 1.4 million tons by 2010, making production would be equal to that of the U.S. or Western Europe. Spunbond will continue to dominate this market, occupying 43% of the market and reaching 600,000tons. Meanwhile, the size of the Chinese spunlace market is expected to double to 140,000 tons.
The number of spunlaced production lines in China has been increasing rapidly. The number of lines and their production capacities are shown in Table 2. In 2004, there were 81 lines running in China capable of making 130,000 tons of the material per year. Of these, 30 new lines were introduced in 2003 and 30 were installed in 2004. Of the 81 lines, 60 were made in China, seven were constructed in Taiwan and 14 were imported. This is in sharp comparison to 2000 when only five lines were made in China, six in Taiwan and seven were imported. This shows a rapid increase of domestic manufacturing equipment made in China.
Production capacity of spunlaced nonwovens has been increasing along with the new facilities; however, the working ratio of the facilities remains at a low level of (55%) with an output of 71,000 tons. Many new market entrants have had to delay starting their operations on a full scale due to a short supply of power and other resources. Some manufacturers have introduced private electric generation systems to solve the problem but the high price of oil has prevented many from continuing their operations. In addition, the price of spunlaced nonwovens has remained at the same low level due to the state of oversupply. This has driven down the profits of manufacturers amidst increased energy costs.
Moreover, the nonwovens made in China have been exposed to competition from overseas producers, which are importing 5000-8000 tons a year into China. And, many Chinese converters prefer imported goods because their quality is superior to those made in China. Therefore, while production of spunlaced nonwovens Is increasing in China, the business conditions for companies involved in this segment remain tough and this situation is expected to continue for the next two to three years.