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The Rupp Report: PCI Fibres Conference 2013: Excellent Source Of Fiber Information

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

The annual PCI Fibres Conference 2013 took place November 7-8, 2013, in Hong Kong. Topics included the supply of the various fiber raw materials and the situation in the Asia-Pacific Rim. It was an event full of valuable information and a gathering of global textile professionals from all production sectors.

The PCI Consulting Group, of which PCI Fibres is a founding member, is an association of specialist companies that together offer integrated consulting services related to the entire fibers and intermediates chain and the related plastics industries. Its consulting perspective ranges from refinery to finished product. PCI Fibres publishes reports that cover the major manufactured fibers and raw materials for acrylic, polyamide, polyester and viscose as well as related products. The PCI Fibres Red Book, published annually, provides an overview of both consumer demand and textile mill consumption for wool, cotton and manufactured fibers. The analysis breaks the world into 13 regions, and also looks at capacity and production for the primary man-made fibers — acrylic, nylon and polyester — in 70 countries.

Fibers Play The Major Role
Since the beginning of all textile activities, fibers have played the most important role. Fibers play a predominant part in defining the final fabric and its properties. Otherwise, apart from ongoing technical improvements, the fundamental technology of forming a fabric either by weaving or knitting hasn't changed that much since its start. On the other hand, mostly over the last few decades, all textile fibers have constantly gone through new developments, characteristics and improvements — particularly man-made fibers. But also, natural fibers such as cotton have shown permanent enhancements regarding properties. And not to be forgotten are cellulosic fibers, which show a growing importance in global fiber consumption, not least due to the issues related to cotton in the last few years.

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Global Fiber Consumption
Peter Driscoll, managing director of PCI Fibres and head of the PCI Fibres Conference, even declared cellulosic fibers to be the global fiber consumption winner in the past few years. He mentioned that cellulosic fibers have enjoyed a strong recovery from a total of 1.7 million metric tons (mt) in 2001 to a total of 3.9 million mt in 2012. In 2013, global cellulosic fiber consumption grew by 17 percent, and the experts from PCI Fibres predict further growth of 12.3 percent in 2013 and 10.4 percent in 2014. From 2000 to 2012, world textile mill consumption reached an average growth of 3.6 percent, to total 80.8 million mt in 2012. World textile mill consumption in 2013 is projected to reach 84.1 million mt. Driscoll expects further growth to 87.6 million mt in 2014.

Changing Marketplaces
As everybody in this industry is aware, fibers are the starting point of the whole downstream process. In an evermore global textile business with its magnitude of product flows, it is therefore vital and of outstanding importance to have a certain knowledge of global fiber production, and consequently, its distribution channels and end-uses. The modeling system applied in PCI Fibres' reports takes into consideration the ups and downs of stock levels along the supply chain. Material in this pipeline is only visible with any ease in the early stages of processing before it is converted into other products, such as apparel. Therefore, the relationship and the link between fiber production and the downstream processes are vital to know. Also, stock movement along the pipeline, sometimes involving vast quantities, can be extremely influential on the future of the global textile market - and its players.

Changing Fiber Applications
And global fiber production has gone through dramatic changes in the last two to three decades: For a long time, the ratio of fiber consumption between the major natural fibers and man-made fibers was about 50:50. This has changed dramatically to a current ratio of 72-percent man-made fiber to 28-percent natural fibers. The reasons for that are well-known and don't need to be repeated here.

However, if one thinks that natural and man-made fibers have a separate and independent life, that belief is more than wrong. The conference showed a crystal-clear correlation between the different regions and fiber production as well as consumption. Certainly, everybody remembers the big problems in 2011 with soaring cotton prices. It can be seen, for example, that polyester prices for staple fibers and filaments rose, too. Especially, polyamide and polyester prices have a great influence on global cotton prices and vice versa, and not only related to the costs of the raw material — oil. Today, there are even more differences.

Changing Power Costs
The key to future success lies to a certain extent in the availability - or in other words, the supply - of natural resources such as natural gas and, consequently, power. For example, as all dear readers of the Rupp Report know, the U.S. textile industry, and mainly the spinning and the man-made fibers sector, is having great success at the moment. One speaker at the conference mentioned some possible reasons for that success: For one, all man-made fibers up to now are based on naphtha as the raw material. All U.S./American crackers are linked with pipelines; therefore, it is very easy to virtually send the product around to all refineries. This is not possible in China, for example, as it would cause big logistical problems and costs as well as high energy consumption to supply all production plants with the necessary feedstock.

Changing Fiber Mix
Nevertheless, China holds a major, if not the dominant, position in the man-made fibers industry. Over the last few years, the mix of man-made fibers production has changed a lot. Using the example of polyester textile filament, Driscoll presented in his paper the role of China and its influence on global man-made fiber production. Today, polyester filament is by far the top fiber. Its production has soared from 9.8 million mt in 2000 up to 25.7 mt in 2012. In 2000, China's production share was 35 percent; in 2012, its share was up to 72 percent.

Excellent Event
This was the first time the author of the Rupp Report has attended the PCI Fibres Conference. Rarely has he visited an event that has provided better and more in-depth information about the global textile products flow in general and the fiber markets in particular. The presentations showed the impact of the global fibers business, the different application areas, their correlations and even their implications. Many other events only focus on networking and socializing. Don't take the author wrong — they are also very important and a prerequisite for success. However, to speak and exchange information with the right people and get most valuable and in-depth information is seldom possible on the international events platform. The PCI Fibres Conference encompassed both. More information about this conference will be available soon in some of the forthcoming Rupp Reports.

November 12, 2013