polymer & packaging news agency -

After the record peak in 2017, substantially continuing into 2018, then followed by a cyclical setback in 2019, last year revenues for Italian plastics and rubber equipment manufacturers recorded a drop of 11.4% to a total value of €3.9 billion.


According to data from the AMAPLAST Statistical Studies Centre, which were analyzed accounting for ISTAT data, the result was caused by a contraction in the domestic market of -12.5% to €1.96 billion and by a drop in sales on foreign markets of -11.2% to €2.72 billion. A final factor was a 14.3% reduction in imports to €780 million.




An examination of the geography of exports in 2020 reveals a rise in sales in Europe, which represents 58.3% of the total with good performance particularly in extra-EU markets, while Asia falling to 16.7% from 17.5% in 2019 and North America to 14.6% from 15.2% lost some ground. Many of the top 10 export countries recorded double-digit drops, significant exceptions being +42% to Russia and +14% to Turkey.


Italian sales to China reached a new record in 2019, exceeding €150 million mark, especially thanks to a peak of extruders and extrusion lines, which topped 25 million euros. The pandemic has affected the surge of exports to the important Asian market, in particular during the first half of 2020.




However, the slowdown turned not to be that strong, as the Chinese industry recovered quickly from the crisis, its demand of plastics and rubber machinery rose again in the second semester and all along the first quarter of 2021.


Therefore, the Italian sales of equipment to the Chinese processors reached the value of €145 million, once again thanks to a good trend for extrusion lines of 28 million and a boom for thermoforming machines of more than 25 million.


Despite the moderate slow-down in 2020, China still represents a main destination market where the country jumped at the fifth position in the classification for the Italian exports of plastics and rubber machinery and yearly total sales have been steadily exceeding €100 million in the last decade. In such context, almost 40 Italian companies coordinated by Amaplast will join CHINAPLAS 2021.


Back to the Italian total exports, analysis by goods category shows that the industry has recorded significant and widespread slumps in sales of almost all technologies, the only exceptions being plants for mono- and multi-filament and thermoforming machines, used to produce trays, cups, and other food packaging, which have witnessed rising demand as a result of new consumption patterns induced by the pandemic.




The expectations for a positive inversion of trend in 2020 after the downturn in 2019 were dashed by the COVID-19 emergency, which required the implementation of extraordinary containment measures which blocked operations for a number of weeks.


In parallel, the progressive spread of the epidemic in various countries generated a high level of uncertainty as regards the international macroeconomic outlook. 


The main impact on the system was especially strong between the first and second quarter, followed by a recovery that accelerated in the last quarter, mitigating the overall negative result.


AMAPLAST members fared relatively well with respect to the overall sector. A comparison with 2019 reveals a drop in their revenues of 2.8%, which is relatively minor considering the global context. Regarding employment, on the other hand, they were with an increase of 3.3%. 


Cautious forecasts for 2021


Overall, the year 2021 began in an encouraging manner: a rebound in production and exports is foreseen, although it might be overly optimistic to expect a return to pre-crisis levels within the space of a few months. This will be much more likely to occur in 2022.


Confirmation of the Transition 4.0 Plan, i.e. governmental incentives to replace machinery and equipment, will pump needed fuel into the domestic market, the one hardest hit in the past months. Significant recoveries in progress in certain key markets, such as China and the United States, will boost exports for the sector.


However, overall forecasts remain cautious because there is still strong uncertainty in many markets, influenced by the prolonged pandemic, the slow pace of vaccination campaigns, and the difficult process of resuming travel, especially internationally.


Moreover, price increases have accelerated in the recent period for polymers, other raw materials, components, and maritime shippingference]=


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