Trends in the Chemical Industry

  • Global growth much weaker than in prior year and below expectations

Contrary to our expectations, global chemical production contracted by 0.4% in 2020 (2019: +1.9%). As a result, the decline was much less pronounced than in global industrial production. This was because less cyclical customer sectors have a higher weighting in the chemical industry and because demand temporarily rose for disinfectants and cleaning products, protective clothing, single-use packaging and plexiglass.

However, there were significant regional differences. In the E.U., chemical production decreased by 2%, with significant differences between the major production locations. While production only declined by between 1% and 3% in Belgium, Germany and Spain, and was virtually unchanged in the Netherlands, it fell by around 8% in Italy and by around 9% in France. Chemical production decreased by 4.6% in North America and by 1.1% in South America.

By contrast, China, the world’s largest chemical market, increased volumes by 3.4%. In the rest of Asia, on the other hand, chemical production declined, in some countries significantly (Japan: –9.8%; Malaysia: –6.2%; India: –5.4%; South Korea: –3.2%). As a result, chemical production in Asia only increased by around 1%.

Chemical production (excluding pharmaceuticals)

Real change compared with previous year

Chemical production (excluding pharmaceuticals), Real change compared with previous year (bar chart)