by Eugene Gerden
Ivanovoiskozh, one of Russia’s producers of technical fabrics in the Ivanovo region, is working to become a leading player in the domestic market of tent cloth and to start foreign expansion this year, thanks to the commissioning of new production of multilayer tent cloth with polymer and PVC coatings, according to recent statements made by the company and leading Russian analysts in the field of technical textiles.
The new factory has become a unique production facility for Russia, as well as Eastern Europe; these regions haven’t traditionally produced tent cloth of this type and level of quality. In 2020, Russian producers also plan to expand into Western markets by increasing exports of fabrics with enhanced fire-retardant properties and protection against thermal radiation, as well as some medical textile products with bioactive properties.
The Ivanovoiskozh facility was founded in 1968 and specializes in the production of technical textiles for the automotive, oil, construction and other industries. The factory also produces finished products and tents, including supplying the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Russian Emergencies Ministry.
Quality and price
Stanislav Voskresensky, governor of the Ivanovo region and the official in charge of the project’s implementation, says the new enterprise will be operated using Italian machinery and equipment, and will require qualified, trained workers for operations. According to the stated plans of the investors and the Ivanovo regional authorities, most of the new factory’s output will be exported to other countries, with the remaining fabrics supplied to the domestic market in Russia.
Analysts believe the output of the new factory could be in high demand in foreign markets, primarily Western, due to their good quality-to-price ratio. Dmitry Lukyanchenko, the director of Ivanovoiskozh, says the new production involves the use of certain innovative technologies not previously in use in Russia and Europe. According to Lukyanchenko, “We use polyurethane along with PVC. The new line allows us to produce materials with a maximum width of 3.2 meters, which no other company in Russia and Eastern Europe does.” The products produced reportedly have good technical characteristics, such as the ability to withstand tensile loads up to 70–80 kilonewtons per meter. According to the company, the fabrics could be used in a number of different industries, including the automotive, oil and construction markets. Company representatives add that most of the tent cloth produced will be suitable for use in the manufacture of awnings, banners, tents and inflatable structures, as well as marine covers and canvas.
According to Alexey Drogun, technology director at Ivanovoiskozh, the new production will allow Russia to almost fully meet its domestic needs in high-quality tent cloth as well as begin regular exports abroad. Drogun comments: “The old line of the plant was designed to produce materials with a maximum width of only 1.5 meters; however, thanks to the commissioning of the new one, we are able to produce materials of 2–3 meters wide.”
Investing in technology
The volume of investments in the initial stages of the project amounted to RUB 630 million (US$12 million), most of which was allocated from the company’s own resources and investors. The remaining funds were provided by the Russian Industry Development Fund, a public fund that specializes in the financing of high-tech projects in the field of technical textiles and light industry in Russia.
In contrast to the majority of other projects implemented in the Russian specialty fabrics industry in recent years, particular attention is being paid to the ecological side of the Ivanovoiskozh facility. As part of these plans, one of the main tasks of the investors during the project implementation was to minimize harmful emissions associated with the operations of the new factory. For this purpose, the new enterprise was equipped with two installations to remove harmful emissions (plasticizers and solvents). According to factory representatives, in general, environmental costs accounted for about 20 percent of the overall cost of the project.
Markets and trade potential
Leading Russian analysts in the field see significant export potential from the new project. In contrast to previous years, they say, particular attention should be paid to the increase of deliveries to Western Europe and North America, where the demand for high-quality tent cloth has significantly increased in recent years.
Andrew Razbrodin, head of the Russian Association of Textile and Light Industry Producers (Souyzlegprom: a public association that unites leading Russian textile and technical textile producers), says: “While the Western European region already has similar productions (which are primarily located in Italy and Nordic states), Ivanovoiskozh has a good chance to gain a significant part of these markets.”
Razbrodin adds that a great deal of this success will depend on tariff policies implemented by the governments of the importing countries. He sees great potential for Ivanovoiskozh and other leading domestic producers of technical fabrics in the North American region, particularly the U.S., because most of these products are not subject to any sanctions and restrictions from these countries.
“Many types of high-tech technical textile products, which are currently produced in Russia, could be delivered to the U.S. and find their niche in the local market. However, the main question is the level of openness of the U.S. market for innovative Russian textile imports and, accordingly, the ability of the U.S. regulators to ensure equal competitive conditions of imports with domestic products. In recent years, the United States has been involved in trade protectionism, which is not useful for equal world economic relations,” says Razbrodin.
According to Razbrodin, in addition to the newly developed fabrics produced by Ivanovoiskozh, customers from the U.S. and other Western countries could also be interested in other fabric innovations currently produced in Russia, such as axial technical canvases based on composites; new types of insulation “Hollofiber”; and overalls and related products for workers employed in mining industries, especially in harsh climates.
According to data from Souyzlegprom, in 2019, U.S. exports of technical textile products to Russia amounted to US$14 million, with the majority of deliveries consisting of chemical fibers and threads. In recent years, imports have significantly increased in both volume and value terms, and analysts expect these trends will continue in years to come.
Eugene Gerden is an international freelance writer based in St. Petersburg, Russia.
SIDEBAR: The trade picture
With economic and climatological upheavals likely to keep increasing throughout 2020 and into the future, the need for long-term trading partnerships is likely to increase as well, to keep tariff and trade barriers out of the profit picture as much as possible. In the article “Brexit and the larger European trade picture” just published in AT Source (www.advancedtextileproducts.com), author Marie O’Mahony discusses European trade and possible U.K. isolation after “Brexit,” as well as other trade opportunities in Africa and China.
A Free Trade Agreement has been reached by the EU and the countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The African Growth and Opportunity Act was introduced in 2000 by the Clinton Administration with the objective of expanding U.S. trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa. With so many trade policies and agreements in flux, impacts on the specialty fabrics industry are likely to be just as complex.