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Published: December 2010
Textile manufacturing is one of the world's oldest and most mature industries. Worldwide, textile production and consumption have followed a long-term growth rate of about 2–3% per year, the recent economic recession not withstanding. The most significant growth has occurred in the developing countries and that pattern is likely to continue in the foreseeable future. In the past thirty years, there has been a continued shift in the geographic location of the world's textile production, first to the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia and Thailand in the 1980s, and second to China and India after 1995, and away from the traditional production centers of the United States, Western Europe and Japan. These regions have suffered from the loss of their traditional export markets and major increases in imports, mainly from East Asian countries. In the United States in particular, the situation was exacerbated by the slowness of the U.S. textile industry to adopt modern high-speed production equipment. The only textile segments in the United States, Western Europe and Japan that remained unaffected by this geographic shift were the production of carpets, tire cord, technical textiles and nonwoven fabrics.
Textile chemical products range from highly specialized chemicals (biocides, flame retardants, water repellents and warp sizes, for example) to relatively simple commodity chemicals or mixtures thereof (such as emulsified oils and greases, starch, sulfonated oils, waxes and some surfactants). Several thousand textile chemical specialties are sold, many of them quite similar and differing from one supplier to another merely in trade names and prices. Altogether, over sixty distinct functional chemical product classes are used in yarn formation, fabric pretreatment and finishing, textile laminating and coating, and other miscellaneous applications.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of textile chemicals:
China has become the largest market for textile chemicals, based on ever-growing apparel and textile production and on huge production of synthetic fibers and cotton. It remains to be seen, however, how long the textile boom in China is going to last at its current pace. The Chinese textile industry might experience rising production costs and will suffer from severe environmental protection measures. Like China, India has become a fast growing market for textile chemicals, reflecting strong cotton and synthetic fiber production as well as growing domestic demand and increasing exports.
In the past ten years, Turkey has become a growing market for textile chemicals, based on strong cotton production and proximity to the markets in the European Union. For the next couple of years, the Turkish textile industry is expected to stagnate or grow only slowly (2%) as a result of increased competition from Chinese and Indian exporters; increasing labor, finance and energy costs in Turkey, which are considerably higher than those in China, India and Pakistan; the displacement of the production of low-quality products to low-cost countries such as Bulgaria, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, or the North Africa region; and the lack of support of the textile industry by the Turkish government.
The textile industry is developing new textiles with smart functions that include high-performance and protection materials, using nano- and biotechnology know-how, specialty coating and lamination formulas as well as ink-jet printing processes. New products are found in industrial and medical textiles, in geo- and agrotextiles, in construction and interior textiles as well as in wearable electronics. Clothing is specially treated to give it unique selling points such as wrinkle-resistance, stain-resistance, antimicrobial properties, and a soft finish to provide extra comfort and performance.
The global textile chemicals market is forecast to grow by 1–3% annually over the next five years. The overall growth in global textile chemical consumption in the past three years on a volume basis was about 3% per year, including growth in textile chemicals for apparel in China and India, and growth in textile chemicals for carpets and technical textiles in the United States and Western Europe.