Another Record Year for Man-Made Fibres in 2004

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Global fibre production -- natural and man-made Â? rose by 6.7% to a record 67 mn tons in 2004, according to research published in the latest issue of Technical Textile Markets.

Total polyester fibre production grew by 9.7% globally, but in China it soared, according to figures produced by textile machinery group Saurer. In the case of polyester staple fibre, Chinese production rose by as much as 21% to 4.4 mn tons—representing a staggering 43% of the 10.3 mn tons produced globally during the year. Chinese polyester filament yarn production climbed by 22%.

Geographically, Saurer points out that the fibre needs of the textile industry in Switzerland—where the company has its headquarters—were satisfied in less than one day’s productive activity in 2004. But in China it took two months of fibre production to satisfy the country’s needs.

Saurer points out that the global increase in fibre production in 2004 extended to almost all fibre types. Collectively, output of cotton, wool and silk was up by a remarkable 6.5% to 24.1 mn tons, reversing a 0.1% fall in 2003.

Even more buoyant was global man-made fibre production which rose by 7.7% in 2004 to reach a new record level of 37.9 mn tons.

All of the main polymer types shared in the buoyancy of the man-made fibre sector. Production of cellulosic fibres rose by 8.1% in 2004 to 3.2 mn tons—a level last seen in 1990—due mainly to a 12% rise in viscose staple fibre production.

In the case of synthetic fibres, production of polyacrylic grew by almost 1% in 2004 after a decline of 1.9% in 2003. More striking was a 5.3% rise in polyamide filament yarn, to 3.7 mn tons, after a slight fall in 2003. But the biggest increase by far was in polyester where output grew by 9.7% in 2004 to 24.5 mn tons. Polyester alone accounted for almost 37% of global fibre production in 2004 and for almost 65% of man-made fibre output.

Alongside China’s production, there were also substantial increases elsewhere—including, surprisingly, in the USA. In 2004 US output of polyester staple fibre grew by as much as 9% to 900,000 tons—substantial for an industrialised country whose textile industry is supposedly in decline. US output even exceeded that of India, which reached 700,000 tons after a 10% rise.

Elsewhere, production of polyester staple fibres fell at double-digit rates in the CIS and Mexico, the latter reflecting concerns about the future competitiveness of its downstream textile and clothing industry. However, driven by the expansion of its technical textile industry, Mexico produced 16% more polyester filament yarn in 2004—which is preferred to staple fibre in most high added value technical applications.

In Turkey, polyester filament yarn production expanded significantly (up 10%) after several years of stagnation, but Chinese growth in this sector has inevitably resulted in casualties elsewhere in the world. Worst hit in 2004 was the polyester filament yarn industry in South Korea, where production fell by 13% to 1.1 mn tons. As a result, the capacity utilisation rate in the country fell to a historically low level of less than 70%.

In Western Europe, the polyester filament industry continued its long-term downward trend. Production fell by 6% in 2004 to less than 400,000 tons.

China’s growth in man-made fibre production goes hand in hand with the expansion in its textile and clothing exports. In 2002 alone Chinese textile exports grew by 22% in US dollar terms and in 2003 they rose by a further 31%. The pattern in clothing was similar with increases of 13% and 26% respectively.

Just as striking as the growth in Chinese textile and clothing exports is their magnitude—even when compared with India, which has been identified in various studies as the only country capable of competing on the same scale as China. In its 2002/03 fiscal year India generated US$11.8 bn worth of export revenues. But in the first quarter of 2004 alone Chinese exports were worth a staggering US$18.8 bn.

However, on the reverse side of the coin, China was forced to import US$14.2 bn worth of yarns and fabrics in 2003 in order to sustain these huge export levels. This made China the world’s third biggest importer of textiles in that year, after the European Union and the USA.

Until China’s upstream capacity increases to keep pace with its textile industry, it will be forced to import the bulk of its raw material requirements. It is little wonder therefore that the country is pressing on with upstream investment in fibres and fibre intermediates at breakneck speed.

“2004: Another Record Year for Man-Made Fibres” and “Worldwide and Regional Trends in Natural and Man-Made Fibre Production” were published in Technical Textile Markets, Issue No 58-59. Other reports in the same issue include: “Profile of Autoliv: Leader in Automotive Occupant Restraint Equipment”; “The World Nonwovens Industry: Part 2—20 Medium Sized Producers”; “The World Nonwovens Industry: Part 3—Ten Smaller Producers”; Innovations in Fibres, Technical Textiles, Apparel and Machinery”; “Global News Round-Up”; “Statistics: Fibre Consumption for Technical Textiles in Western Europe”; and “Statistics: Fibre Consumption for Technical Textiles in the USA”.

Technical Textile Markets is a quarterly publication from Textiles Intelligence Limited. It provides business and market analysis of worldwide trends in man-made fibres, technical textiles and industrial textiles manufacturing, trade and distribution. If you would like to order a copy of this issue, please contact Textiles Intelligence, International Subscriptions, 10 Beech Lane, Wilmslow SK9 5ER, United Kingdom.

Tel: +44 (0)1625 536136; Fax: +44 (0)1625 536137; Email:

For press copies and editorial enquiries, please contact Belinda Carp or Robin Anson at Textiles Intelligence Ltd. Tel: +44 (0)1625 536136; Fax: +44 (0)1625 536137; Email:


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Belinda Carp