Photo by Marco Stepniak Visitors at Italian machinery producer Negri Bossi's K 2016 stand.
A third-quarter recovery in exports of plastics and rubber machinery buoyed Italian machine makers already enjoying a stronger domestic market in 2016.
In the nine months from January to September 2016, imports of machinery to Italy increased 8.5% and exports climbed by 1.5%, said trade body Assocomaplast. Its analysis of official ISTAT data on Italian foreign trade was particularly welcome after a fall in exports was reported in the first six months of 2016.
“In particular, the recovery in exports – which historically represent a significant share of national production – is an important signal for Italian manufacturers, after the negative performance that had characterized previous months,” said Assocomaplast president Alessandro Grassi.
“For that matter, 2015 was a record year, the best ever, for foreign sales by Italian manufacturers in the sector. If the recovery is confirmed in the  year-end balance sheet, we will see overall values that are fully worthy of note.”
Weaker markets in Europe were counterbalanced by growth in some countries in North America and Asia in the first nine months of 2016, said Assocomaplast, which represents manufacturers of plastics and rubber processing machinery, equipment and moulds.
Exports to EU countries dropped by 1.8% while extra-EU markets fell by 0.5%. The overall European market accounted for a 58% share of the total Italian machinery exports, a fall-off of a couple of percentage points, said the association.
In North America, growth was driven exclusively by Mexico, which more than doubled its Italian imports in the three quarters, compared with 2015. In contrast, the US market declined by 12% and the Canadian market by 26%.
In South America, the two principal markets showed diverging trends. The market in Brazil shrank by 33% to less than €30m, while Argentina showed an upward trend of 22% to nearly €24m.
There were higher exports to Asia, with the Middle East region growing by nearly 7% and the Far East by 8%.
“Sales to Iran continue their strong growth (from €11m to €18m), almost certainly attributable to the partial lifting of sanctions,” said Assocomaplast.
Other strong markets in January-September 2016 were: China (up 9% to €104m), India (42% to €43m), South Korea (up 39% to €14m) and Vietnam (up 62% to €13m).
Grassi said: “Among other things, the major expectations among Italian manufacturers for the recent K exhibition were not disappointed. Indeed the shared feeling among those taking part in the three-year trade fair in Düsseldorf was of greater professionalism with respect to the past among the operators encountered at the fair and of a concrete inclination toward investment, which in many cases took the form of orders signed at the stands. The results of the fair thus give us strong hopes for the coming months.”