BCF warns on raw material availability and price hikes

Richard Stuart-Turner
Thursday, March 11, 2021

The British Coatings Federation (BCF) has warned that the lack of availability of key raw materials and packaging as well as significant price increases could end up as the biggest issues of 2021 for the coatings and printing ink sectors.

The cost of producting printing inks is rising
The cost of producting printing inks is rising

The organisation said these factors are causing “significant disruption” to these industries in the UK and across Europe.

It said there are four significant trends affecting raw material prices, including strong global market demand that has led to shortages on many raw materials, and the price of oil having risen by 58% since November – currently $68 (£49) a barrel.

Also; the global shortage of shipping containers has led to a sharp rise in transport costs from Asia to Europe, thus further restricting supplies to Europe, while additional non-tariff costs related to the new UK customs arrangements with the EU are adding to the cost of imported raw materials into the UK from Europe.

BCF added, however, that there are also some specific reasons for some of the recent increases.

It said solvents are one category where prices are going “through the roof”. Some examples in BCF’s monthly raw material prices survey shows the largest increases in solvent prices in January 2021 versus 12 months ago are acetone (123%) n-butyl acetate (91%), IPA (41%) and n-butanol (54%).

A critical issue here are two force majeures at major chemical plants producing butyl acetate, BCF added.

In January, the organisation had reported sharp price increases for epoxy resins, of as much as 60% in Q3 2020. It said similar problems are affecting the market for polyester resins with factory closures in Singapore and Sweden as well as an explosion at a factory in China adding to the difficulties.

There are also problems with bisphenol-A, with stocks being diverted to polycarbonates. Neopentyl glycol and methanol are also both reported to be in short supply.

Finally, BCF said concerns have also been raised about pigment shortages, such as red and yellow iron oxide. Plastic polymers are also in short supply, affecting availability and prices of packaging, with five-litre paint cans 10% higher than at the same period last year, while tin plate has had a similar increase.

“Given that raw materials and freight comprise the majority of the overall cost to produce paints, coatings and printing inks, this trend will have a major impact on the operations of BCF member companies,” said BCF chief executive Tom Bowtell.

“Where possible, BCF members will seek to mitigate higher costs via internal process optimisation measures, alternate sourcing and increased efficiencies”.

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