Far East Report

Japan’s Nonwovens Demand Is On The Rise

By Kin Ohmura, Far East Correspondent | March 12, 2013

Japan’s nonwovens demand has been on the rise after the effects of the worldwide recession. In 2008 nonwovens demand reached 381,641 tons, which then decreased to 340,260 tons in 2009 due to economic crisis. Afterwards, the market recovered to 385,538 tons in 2011, exceeding demand in 2008, despite the negative effects caused by the great earthquake disaster in 2011.

While nonwovens demand in automobile applications decreased greatly in 2011, the demand for wet tissues increased rapidly because of the increasing demand in the area impacted by the disaster, which was also responsible for the automotive decline. Depressed demand for automobiles soonafter recovered and sales have increased more than 10%. In addition, the demand for life-related materials and hygiene items represents a positive trend, and as a result Japan’s domestic demand for nonwovens is estimated to have increased by 4% in 2012.

Japan’s domestic demand for nonwovens has increased steadily, in spite of the great earthquake disaster. Still, the amount of imported nonwovens has increased, exceeding  more than 30%, in 2011, and estimated to grow to 32.1% in 2012. Yet, the products of Japanese nonwovens makers overseas have been involved in these imported nonwovens.

Some diaper makers in Japan have imported polypropylene  spunbonded nonwovens as a part of cost savings measures. Japanese nonwovens manufacturers would be defeated by overseas rival enterprises in price competition, if they try to cope only with domestic products, so they have imported the polypropylene spunbonded nonwovens from overseas businesses and sell the merchandises to counteract the overseas enterprises. Under these circumstances, the amount of imported polypropylene spunbonded nonwovens has increased greatly, now accounting for 50% of the total amount of imported nonwovens.

News from Asia

Unicharm has continued to increase its marketshare in the baby diaper market in Asia. It owns an estimated 61% of the market in Thailand; 60% in Indonesia; 43% in Vietnam; 28% in Taiwan; 16% in China; and 12% in India. Although Unicharm owns a large portion of the markets in Indonesia, P&G and Kao both say they will enter the Indonesian market during 2013, heavily increasing Unicharm’s competition. Moreover, K-C says it also has plans to reinforce its investment in Southeast Asia adding to the already heated competition there.

Tapyrus Thailand has completed construction of its meltblown nonwovens production plant in November 2012 and the commercial production was set to begin in the second quarter of 2013. It is the first time Tapyrus will produce nonwovens in a country other than Japan. The company is targeting liquid filter, air filter, covering mask and the automotive filter applications.

Sumitomo Seika Chemicals has constructed a new SAP facility in Himeji, which was completed in December 2012. The production capacity of the new facility is 54,000 tons per year. As a result, SAP production capacity in Japan has scaled up to 164,000 tons per year from 120,000 tons per year. In addition, the company operates plants with an annual capacity of 70,000 tons per year in Singapore, and another 20,000 tons per year in France. In addition, the France plant is undergoing construction, which will increase its capacity to 27,00 per year once the project is complete in the spring of this year.

Mitsubishi Paper Mills has developed a filter for pollen as the company is pushing forward to open up a new market of demand for the products to be used as air cleaners. The nonwovens used for the devices are coated with similar filter medium of prefilter or the middle performance filter. By applying an adhesive binder, it is able to capture the efficiency of the pollen could be drastically improved. Additionally, these filters can be used repeatedly by being washed in water and by being installed in front of the main filter. As a result an extension of the life of the main filter is possible.

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