Until recently, the production of base polymers in the Russian Federation was developing at a faster pace. Often these materials went past domestic processors abroad. By supplying basic polymers for export, our country provided foreign countries with cheap raw materials, and then actively imported ready-made plastic products. As a rule, these are simple goods in production: ordinary film, sheet plastic, stationery, sockets and switches, accessories, bottles, vials… As a result, the industry experienced the turning point in 2022 with dignity, and many domestic manufacturers cheered up — they had orders.
According to statistics, the domestic production of base polymers in Russia in 2022 reached 7.7 million tons, which is 3.3% lower than in 2021. At the same time, 3.09 million tons of products were exported (-10.7%).
A little more than 6 million tons of polymer materials were processed on the territory of our country. The indicators for polycarbonate, polypropylene, polystyrene, which are in demand in the sagging construction and automotive industries, have decreased. At the same time, the production of polyacrylates (used for the production of plexiglass, paints and varnishes) increased by 20.5%, which analysts attribute to the need to replace imported acrylic polymers.
Rosstat calculations also showed that the consumption of primary plastics in the country was declining faster than the production of raw materials. For example, the production of polypropylene decreased by 8.5%, and its consumption — by more than 20%.
Experts of the Union of Plastic Processors explain this trend not only by the fact that many processors in the current unstable situation have reduced production. Competition with manufacturers from Southeast Asia also affected. Our manufacturers of plastic products are inferior in price to their southeastern competitors, even though last year they managed to achieve a reduction in prices for basic polymers.
Meanwhile, Russia's imports of base polymers decreased by 17% last year, and finished plastic products — by 35%. This is due to sanctions and a reduction in the presence of foreign companies in a number of industries. Do not forget that the production of polymers involves a multicomponent process, which depends not only on the availability of basic raw materials. For a full-fledged result, additional components are needed (hardeners, catalysts, dyes), in the absence of at least one ingredient, there will be no result. And Russia does not even have its own catalysts for the production of the simplest polyethylene yet.
The equipment in domestic production is also imported. In the first half of 2022, investments of Russian companies in plastic processing units amounted to $285.1 million, which is 24.2% less than in January — June 2021. At the same time, the import of equipment has grown anyway. Mainly due to China (+15.4%), Taiwan (+66.1) and Turkey (+37.6%). Imports from Germany fell more than twice and amounted to only $ 35 million, which was the lowest in 20 years. Deliveries from Italy in monetary terms decreased by 35.3%, from South Korea — by 53.6%, from Japan — by 85.5%.
Many European manufacturers have suspended cooperation with Russia, so domestic companies have to limit themselves to domestic raw materials and products from the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America, the Middle East and Central Asia, revise the formulations of plastic products, change the technological modes of equipment. But in business, as you know, there are no hopeless situations.
The use of domestic raw materials has facilitated the establishment of production in the country. As a result, a lot of products that were previously imported began to be produced in Russia.
However, with such import substitution, there are also pitfalls. For example, Russia is not yet able to produce minimum batches of components (10 thousand copies) at the same low prices that customers are used to buying them abroad. In Russia, such an order is more expensive, because you have to invest in the creation of a mold. In this case, it makes sense for a business to cooperate and place an order for several companies.
In general, the situation on the polymer market was well illustrated by the largest plastics and rubbers exhibition in Moscow in January, which was attended by exhibitors from 16 countries, including Turkey, Iran, China, India, the UAE, Israel, Taiwan. A special place at the exhibition was given to the closed-cycle economy and the use of secondary polymers, which are more than relevant all over the world today.