PET Resin Trade Flows: Despite Freight Disruption Chinese PET Resin Exports End 2023 on High

Insight Focus

  • Chinese PET resin exports post another record year in terms of volume.
  • South Korea exports experienced a seasonal decline; ADD against China investigation initiated.
  • Thailand PET resin exports increased 13% in 2023, Japan and US remain key markets.

China’s Bottle-Grade PET Resin Market

Monthly Exports

  • Chinese bottle-grade PET exports (HS 39076110) fell to around 408k tonnes in December, decreasing 14% on the previous month, although 18% above levels seen a year earlier.
  • These levels were in line with previous expectations, with fewer exports in the second half of December resulting from the Christmas slowdown and the Red Sea impact on freight rates.
  • New order intake has increased in January to around 450k tonnes, despite elevated freight prices, with foreign buyers getting orders in ahead of Chinese New Year (10-17 Feb).

  • Russia was the largest destination for Chinese PET resin exports in December, with over 22.1k tonnes, although month-on-month volumes fell by 23%.
  • Exports to Russia typically see a seasonal increase late Q4/early Q1 in preparation for Spring restocking.
  • Tanzania and Nigeria ranked 2nd and 3rd also recorded exports volumes over 20k tonnes. Exports to Tanzania leapt in December by over 190% and increased by 720% versus Dec’22.
  • Exports to Nigeria have also shown sizeable increases in recent months, increasing 225% in December.
  • · Wankai New Materials has recently announced plans to build a 300k tonne PET resin plant in Sagamu in the Nigerian state of Ogun. 

Quarterly Exports

  • Looking at the latest full quarter, Chinese bottle-grade PET Resin exports totalled 1.26 million tonnes in Q4’23, up 17% versus Q3’23, and an increase of 23% compared to Q4’22.
  • For the full year 2023, China exported around 4.6 million tonnes of bottle-grade PET resin, increasing 6% on 2022 levels, marking another record year for Chinese exports.
  • With massive capacity expansion in 2023, and a continuing build program in 2024. Chinese exports are expected to continue to set new records in 2024. 

  • Overall, Russia, India, and the UAE were the top three destinations for FY’23, with 237k tonnes, 208k tonnes, and 189k tonnes respectively.
  • Exports to India experienced a 949% increase on 2022 levels, whilst Indonesia and Vietnam also saw annual volumes balloon by 96% and 121%, to 158k tonnes and 111k tonnes respectively.
  • By region, Asia was the largest destination last year, with around 27% of total Chinese PET resin exports, followed by Africa and 22%, and South America with 12%.

South Korea’s Bottle-Grade PET Resin Market

Quarterly Exports

  • South Korean bottle-grade PET fell for a third consecutive quarter in Q4’23 to just over 79k tonnes, down 16% on the previous quarter and down by a third versus the same period a year earlier.
  • For the full-year 2023, South Korean PET resin exports totalled 379k tonnes, down 4% compared to the previous year. 

  • South Korea’s largest export market is the United States, which accounted for around 35k tonnes in Q4’23, and around 48% of total exports for the year.
  • Therefore, much of the overall drop in volume came here, with exports to the US declining by 27% versus Q3’23.
  • Weaker seasonal demand was the key driver; overall exports to the US were up 18% for the FY.
  • Exports to Japan and Vietnam also fell sharply last quarter, down 18% and 26%.
  • However, volumes to Belgium and Italy grew by around 15% each, in part in response to provisional anti-dumping duties on Chinese resin into the EU.

Quarterly Imports

  • South Korea’s bottle-grade PET resin imports on the other hand continued to swell, totalling 45k tonnes in Q4’23, a 3.5% increase versus the previous quarter, and up 36% versus Q3’22.
  • China remained South Korea’s main resin supplier, supplying over 95% of Korea PET resin imports, over 43k tonnes in Q4’22. 

  • As a result, South Korea has recently initiated an anti-dumping investigation on several main Chinese PET resin suppliers, including Yisheng and CRC. 

Thailand Bottle-Grade PET Resin Market

Quarterly Exports

  • According to Thai Customs, Thailand exported a total of 106k tonnes of PET resin (HS 390761) in Q4’23.
  • The top three countries captured around 87% of total Q4 exports, these included Japan, the US, and Vietnam, with 46.9k tonnes, 35.4k tonnes, and 9.4k tonnes respectively.
  • For the full-year 2023, Thai PET resin exports totalled 383k tonnes, up 12.6% compared to the previous year. 

  • Exports to Japan increased around 11% versus Q3’23, to just under 47k tonnes; FY 2023, exports to Japan reached 180.3k tonnes, a 10% increase on the previous year.
  • Exports to the US also continued to rise strongly, with a 28% quarterly increase to 35k tonnes: totalling of 93k tonnes for FY 2023, a massive 588% annual increase.
  • Despite losing ground to Chinese resin in key markets such as Vietnam, Thai exports experienced large volume gains into other markets, including Nigeria.
  • Thai exports to Nigeria experienced FY 2023 volumes increases of 775%, albeit it from a low base to around 4.8k tonnes. 

Data Appendix 

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Gareth Lamb

Gareth joined Czarnikow in 2021 and is Czarnikow’s PET analyst and recycling specialist. As well as regularly reporting on key market trends and dynamics, Gareth is also developing new research products and analytics within the PET and rPET space. Prior to joining Czarnikow, Gareth led Wood Mackenzie’s PET research service and was Senior Consultant at IHS Markit, working within the petrochemical consulting team. Dr. Lamb graduated from the University of St Andrews with a PhD in organometallic chemistry; and has a masters of Chemistry degree from the University of Liverpool.

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