Manmade fiber and technical textile production in Japan increased in 2010 for the first time in several years—and could increase again in the coming years as demand for materials for reconstruction surges following the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. On the negative side, the technical textile industry is likely to suffer from lower demand for materials for the Japanese automotive industry as a result of a sharp fall in car production since the earthquake.
These are among the findings in a report in the latest issue of Technical Textile Markets—a quarterly publication from the global business information company Textiles Intelligence. Production of synthetic fibers rose by an impressive 21 percent in 2010, representing the first increase in ten years. Capacity utilization also rose sharply. Production of nonwoven fabric rose by 11 percent, industrial textile goods by 5 percent and spunbonded fabric by 13 percent. In the case of cellulosic fibers, production rose by 11 percent, taking output to its highest level since 2002.
To some extent, the recovery in Japanese fiber and technical textile production reflects inventory replenishment following the global economic crisis. In fact the 21 percent hike in synthetic fiber production in 2010 followed a 24 percent drop in 2009. Also, the prospects for 2011 are somewhat uncertain because of the disruption to production caused by earthquake damage and the resulting tsunami. More significantly, electricity is in short supply because of the shutdown of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima.
But on the positive side, there are likely to be some short-term gains for the industry as reconstruction progresses. This will lead to a significant rise in the demand for technical textiles for buildings and civil engineering projects. Over the medium- to long-term, however, such production is unlikely to be sustainable. Instead, the future of the Japanese technical textile industry will lie in the manufacture of niche, value-added fibers owing to growing competition in the case of basic commodity technical textiles from low cost countries such as China.