U.S. Soda Ash Production Up - Consumption Isn't
Examination of U.S. soda ash industry data indicates soda ash production through November is ahead of 2000 by 1.3% at 9,483,000metric tons.
Apparent consumption, calculated through October, is lagging 2000 by 1.88%. The success of the American export program is evident.
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The U.S. domestic soda ash market is often described as "mature" meaning its growth is negligible. In truth, the market ahs not varied from the ten year average of 6.45 million metric tons by more than 260,000 during the last decade. With
few dollars being budgeted by producers for research & development, the domestic situation is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
When the year is complete, American soda ash production will exceed 10.3 million metric tons, the second highest total behind record year 1997 with 10.7 million tons. The closure of General Chemical's Canadian unit and the first full year of operation of American Soda's new Colorado plant have kept domestic production numbers high but industry operating rates as low as 71% for the year. The present name plate annual capacity of the U.S. soda ash industry is 14,515,000 metric tons in active or standby status.
The profitability of the U.S. industry is dependent upon an active and successful export program. This has been true since 1981 and the advent of the American Natural Soda Ash Corporation (ANSAC), the industry export organization. In a remarkable turn of events, it has not been ANSAC that is responsible for expanded exports in 2001. The margin of increase in U.S. soda ash exports, some 200,000 metric tons, is attributable to increased sales in Western Europe and Canada. Neither area is within the sales guidelines of ANSAC.
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Trona production in the United States has increased appropriately during 2001 to 13.9 million metric tons through November. On average, 1.8 tons of trona produce 1 ton of soda ash. Nahcolite production, another raw material for making soda ash, is not reported.
U.S. Exports Triple to Europe
With the soda ash export year ten months complete, U.S. exports remain 6.57% ahead of the same period of 2000. The increase of 207,000 tons came predominantly from dramatically increased exports to European consumers in Belgium and Spain. American soda ash exports to Europe are 309,000 metric tons (9.2% of all exports) through October, an increase of 181% over 2000. Shipments to Middle Eastern customers are 167,000 tons, 34% ahead of year 2000 levels.