Deliveries of aluminium foil recorded for the third quarter of 2003 have declined compared with the same period last year, according to the latest figures from the European Aluminium Foil Association (EAFA). Total sales for this year's third quarter were 4.5 per cent lower at 202,000 tons.
But despite the drop, the association remains confident that the aluminium packaging market remains buoyant. After all, this year's third quarter results were second only to the record 2002 Q3 figures.
In addition, the year-to-date figures indicate that deliveries have been sustained at a level 2 per cent above last year's all-time high. According to the EAFA, order books suggest that the total 2003 tonnage is likely to closely match the 2002 record result.
The outlook for 2003 as a whole looks good. In the first half of the year, exports continued to advance strongly, with an 8 per cent increase over 2002. There was a very strong increase of 13 per cent in demand for thicker foil.
"Aluminium foil has continued to sustain an excellent level of demand so far this year despite the dull economic environment affecting most of Europe and our major export markets," said EAFA president Livio Frigerio. "It is always impossible to predict market activity, but most economic forecasts are expressing optimism for next year. Such a scenario should help to lift alufoil demand yet further."
One explanation for the slight decline in aluminium in the last quarter is increasing awareness of the need to recycle. In addition, continually improving technology and equipment means that the packaging industry is often able to downgauge - less and less aluminium needs to be used without any loss of performance.
If this is true, then it makes identifying the real growth in customer demand for aluminium products harder to quantify. In other words, the popularity of aluminium will not always be accurately reflected in the amount of new material manufuctured. This, argues the association, puts into context the long term tonnage growth rate of around 4 per cent witnessed over the past several years.
EAFA is the international organisation representing the European-based aluminium foil industry. With some 100 members, it is made up of foil rollers, converting companies and manufacturers of semi-rigid foil containers.