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The Economics of SME Aluminium Foil Production

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The global foil industry celebrated its 100 years of commercial operations in 2010. At that time it was reported in a global Foil industry conference in Bangkok that the industry is around 3.2 Mln TPA strong and for the decade gone by, had maintained a steady CAGR of 4%, a rate higher than the overall growth rate of global primary aluminium industry. In 2012, the industry reported a production capacity level of 4.6 Mln TPA or 17-18% share of global primary metal production of around 48.3 Mln TPA.  75% of the overall aluminium foil production globally continued to be used by the packaging industry with the rest going to the industrial sector. Interestingly, this proportion has remained the same over last 2 decades.

As in primary metal, China continues to dominate in aluminium foil production. However, in terms of consumption, the western work continues to be the locomotive of demand growth rate. During the period 2010 to 15, along with China, the middle east too has emerged as a significant green field  producer and supplier of foil  and foil stock to the world market. While India and the SEA countries have always projected great growth prospects, their share in availability and consumption of foil is yet to even get close to the per capita consumption rate of the developed world.

aluminium foil

The dynamics of global foil industry has been experiencing similar paradigm shift over the years as the primary industry continues its drift east word. One of the major contributing factor in this has been widespread acceptance of Continuous caster material as feed stock for an ever growing list of foil application areas constraining growth of capacity and demand from the capital intensive Hot Rolling route. Along with, the increasing availability of cheaper and smaller capacity core capital foil manufacturing equipments from China, Taiwan and India to name a few, the Capex for setting up foil mills has also been coming down over the years. Another contributing factor for strong emergence of the SME sector in foil production, especially in the eastern hemisphere, is the increasing tendency among primary aluminium producers worldwide and especially in the middle east, to restrain their flat product production at ‘Foil Stock’ stage and in not going full length in producing the end use foils. This has considerably improved the security of supply of feed material for smaller independent foil producers and also further down the line independent customised finishers who are the ultimate suppliers to the end user packaging industry world wide.

It is now to be seen how better availability in terms of both volumes and value of aluminium foils for the end use converters and consumers helps in driving the overall global aluminium demand northwards and the next generation of aluminium industry entrepreneurs take advantage of the same!

By: Mr. B S Pani, Industrial Consultant ( bspani@yahoo.com)

The author is a metallurgist, an industry veteran of 40+ years and an independent Industrial Consultant operating from Bhubaneswar: India.



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