The average value of nonwoven products exported to China by Japanese manufacturers in 2009 was almost double the average value of materials exported to the U.S., according to a report by Textiles Intelligence. Exports to the U.S. had a total value of ¥8,282 million (US$88.5 million), but those to China were more than double this amount, at ¥16,686 million, even though the volume of sales was lower.
Unit weights and types of materials vary from one export market to another, and some markets have a greater proportion of higher value nylon nonwovens while others are made up predominantly of lower-grade polyester and polypropylene products. But the overall message is clear—the Chinese market is now providing the added value for Japanese producers which was formerly provided by markets in the United States, and to a lesser extent by those in Europe.
Chinese customers are demanding increasing volumes of high-performance nylon-based spunmelt nonwoven materials—a speciality of Japan—for a wide range of industrial end use applications. By contrast, the U.S. imports mainly lower weight polypropylene-based and polyester based materials, primarily for the hygiene and healthcare sectors. The exporting of value-added products to China now forms a key component of the strategies of most of the leading Japanese nonwovens manufacturers.