Prominent Trends in Western Europe’s Polyethylene Trade Through April 2020 Point to Slower Demand

A slowdown in intra-regional trade and generally lower imports from other regions, with one key exception, were prominent trends in Western Europe’s PE trade, based on the most current data available.

Indicating slower demand, Western Europe’s intra-regional trade, which measures trade between the countries in the geographic region, declined by 5%-15% through April 2020 versus the same period last year, for HDPE, LDPE, LLDPE and EVA. Intra-trade for ethylene-alpha-olefin copolymers (EAOC) was flat.

Also indicating a drop in demand was a decline in YTD imports from other regions for each polymer except LLDPE. This is linear low density polyethylene but distinct from EAOC, which is also linear but with a lower ethylene monomer content. Western Europe’s imports of LLDPE were up 83% through April, to 324,000 tons; imports of EAOC declined by 19%, to 205,000 tons. Imports of HDPE showed the steepest decline, down 21%, to 528,000 tons.

It is not clear why there appears to be a shift toward imports of linear as LLDPE and away from EAOC, but the change is most visible in imports into Belgium through March. The graphs below illustrate the jump in Belgium’s imports of LLDPE, which were mainly from Saudi Arabia and the US, followed by Brazil, and the corresponding slowdown in imports of EAOC, which were mainly from US, Netherlands and Saudi Arabia.

From International Trader Publications’ World Trade Reports, continuously updated analyses of global trade in Identified-LLDPE, Ethylene-alpha-Olefins Copolymers and HDPE.