Production quality has rapidly adapted to the requirements of end users and European standards are already widely applied, the report says. The multinationals have, of course, contributed to this dynamic and are well established in the region. Poland is reported to have attracted nearly €1 billion of Foreign Direct Investment in this sector, where many companies with local capital remain active and competitive.
The region's trade balance is currently slightly negative. In the most recent figures available, which are for the year 2002, imports of packaging products exceeded €2 billion.
The report also analyses the individual breakdown for different packaging materials. Plastic packaging accounted for 42 per cent of the total, followed by paper and cardboard (30.5 per cent), glass (10 per cent), steel (8.6 per cent), aluminium (4.5 per cent) and wood (3.6 per cent).
Exports reached €1.6 billion, and plastic packaging products are also the main exports, accounting for 35.4 per cent of the total, followed by paper and cardboard (19.8 per cent), wood (17.7 per cent), glass (11 per cent), aluminium (8.1 per cent) and steel (7.7 per cent). Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are the main trading players in the region.
The production and consumption of paper and cardboard packaging still dominate the market and this is probably the most developed sub-sector. In 2002, the accession states' imports of paper and cardboard packaging goods amounted to €490 million. Poland is the leading importer (31.3 per cent), followed by Hungary (17.1 per cent) and the Czech Republic (16.8 per cent). Exports amounted to €300 million. The main supplying countries are Poland (33.9 per cent), the Czech Republic (26.2 per cent) and Slovakia (9.7 per cent).
Plastic packaging is really taking off, and its use is constantly increasing, the report highlights. This is the market segment which has experienced the strongest growth over the last few years. Imports of plastic packaging reached nearly €680 million in 2002. The main consumers are Poland (32.6 per cent), the Czech Republic (21 per cent) and Hungary (14 per cent). On the export side, Poland also ranks first with a 36 per cent share of the €537 million exported, followed by the Czech Republic (20 per cent) and Hungary (18.8 per cent).
Both production and consumption of metal packaging are falling in the majority of the candidate countries the report also reveals. Trade in aluminium packaging exhibits a relatively large surplus with €123 million exported and €73 million imported. Polish sales represent 57 per cent of the regional total. For steel, €138 million was imported. Poland accounts for 28 per cent, followed by Hungary (18 per cent) and Slovenia (16 per cent). Exports of metal packaging are valued at €116 million with two main supplying countries: Poland (28.4 per cent) and the Czech Republic (27 per cent).
Glass packaging products are used above all for the beer market, which provides an important outlet in the accession states. Production remains limited to one player per country and the trade balance is slightly in surplus (€167 million exported against €161 million imported), Poland (32.8 per cent) and the Czech Republic (23.4 per cent) being the main exporting countries.
Wood is abundant in the region and this industry is a traditional sector in many of those countries. Some of them specialise in pallets (Slovenia and Latvia in particular) which are exported to the EU. But, on the whole, the use of wood packaging remains slight in the accession states.
Local production of packaging machines is very low, except in the Czech Republic. The majority of the machines used are imported, mainly from Germany and Italy.
Looking at the number of packaging imports, it is clear that there is plenty of room for the development of the accession states' food and drink packaging industry. In recent years, aluminium packaging plants have been mushrooming in the region, in response to growing demands from the beer and soft drinks sector. However, further development across the sector is likely to be fuelled by higher the higher safety standards for food and drink packaging required by EU regulations.