Chemicals, rubber and plastic (Q3 2015)

  • Sector: Chemicals, rubber and plastic
  • Quarter: Third
  • Year: 2015

The industry contributed 14.8% of total manufacturing production in the third quarter of 2015, with a fairly constant share from 2010. It was dominated by Sasol, which produced a variety of chemical products and petroleum from coal. Basic chemicals accounted for around 33% of the industry’s production, other chemicals for 40%, plastics for a 23% and rubber for just 6%. In addition to consumer products, iuncluding pharmaceuticals, the industry provided key intermediate inputs for mining, agriculture and other industries. A signifiant incrase in exports in the past two years likely reflected sluggish domestic demand.

Production grew by 5,7% from third quarter 2013 to the third quarter of 2015, compared to an increase of 10,5% from the third quarter of 2010 to the third quarter of 2013. From the second to the third quarter, production rose by 3,8%.

Employment was 170 000 in the third quarter of 2015, up from 156 000 five years earlier and virtually the same as in the previous quarter. Employment had fallen more or less steadily from a high of 240 000 in 2008.

Capacity utilisation rose in the past quarter, from 82,9% in the second quarter of 2015 to 84,7% in the third quarter. The latest level was essentially the same as two years earlier.

Exports of chemicals, plastics, rubber came to 15% of total manufacturing exports in the third quarter of 2015. In dollar terms, they generally increased from 2010, following the sharp decline in the global financial crisis, but stagnated from late 2013 and are now down from 16% from the third quarter of 2013. They accounted for around 36% of total production in the industry in the third quarter of 2015, compared to 30% two years earlier.

In dollar terms, exports by the industry came to US$1,7 billion in the third quarter of 2015, around the same as two years earlier. Compared to the second quarter of 2015, however, they had dropped from US$1,9 billion. In rand terms, in contrast, the industry’s exports climbed sharply from R16,9 billion in the third quarter of 2013 to R23 billion in the second quarter of 2015, although they declined to R22 billion in the third quarter. That said, the quarterly trade data are not seasonally adjusted, so the changes are not necessarily very meaningful.

Imports of chemicals, plastics, rubber accounted for 19% of all manufactured imports in the third quarter of 2015, compared to 18% in the third quarter of 2013. They equalled about 60% of local production of chemicals, rubber and plastic. In rand terms, they had risen from R35,5 billion in 2013 to R36,1 billion in the second quarter of 2015, then rose rapidly to R43,4 billion in the third quarter. Again, the figures are not seasonally adjusted and vary substantially quarter-on-quarter.

In 2014, the main imports in this very diverse grouping were plastics and pharmaceuticals, followed by organic chemicals, mostly used in industry, and rubber products, predominantly tyres. In the third quarter 2015, Goodyear announced a R670 million investment to expand production of high-value-added consumer tyres at its Uitenhage plant, which would however go together with a shift of production of medium radial truck tyres to overseas plants.