Weakening Demand in the Global Dissolving Pulp Market

Aug. 10, 2011 (Press Release) - The latest estimates for world cotton production in 2011 show a record year, at nearly 27 million tonnes, or nearly 5 million tonnes above the low point reached in 2009. This has impacted the record $5100/tonne A-index cotton price reached in March this year contributing to a steep decline to $3600 in May, before stabilizing in June.

Meanwhile, spot prices have continued to wane. Current spot prices and year-end futures prices indicate that A-grade cotton prices in the fourth quarter will drop even further. As supplies of cotton started to become more available at lower prices, the strong demand growth in viscose staple fiber (dissolving pulp) has begun to slow. These are the findings published in the latest issue of RISI's World Dissolving Pulp Monitor.

World dissolving pulp demand reached 5.1 million tonnes in 2010 — an increase of 16% over the previous year when world demand for all textile fibers jumped 12%. In the second quarter of 2011, eleven new dissolving pulp projects were announced, totaling an additional 1.2 million tonnes of capacity. Half of this new capacity comes from one mill: the new Zhanjiang Chenming operation in southern China.

"Our latest listing of announced capacity expansions shows that 1.4 million tonnes of new dissolving pulp capacity will start by the end of 2011, which is 200,000 tonnes more than what we had calculated in last quarter's monitor," explains Rod Young, RISI's Chief Economic Advisor and Author of the World Dissolving Pulp Monitor.

"The weakening of the world dissolving pulp market over the course of the second quarter appears to have caught producers by surprise and there were reports of excess inventories throughout the supply chain by the latter part of the second quarter."

Overcapacity and the plunge in prices will mean some announced projects will be delayed or even cancelled and are assumed to have an even more pronounced negative effect on the viability of projects announced for 2013. Also, low prices will continue to keep swing mill capacity mainly in the paper grade market and begin to pressurize older, smaller mills to shut existing capacity.