Published April 2014
This report covers the major zinc chemicals of commercial importance: zinc oxide, zinc sulfate and zinc chloride.
Because of its dependence on the automotive industry, which experienced a particularly strong decrease in production volume, the global zinc chemicals industry was hit hard by the economic crisis that started in 2008. Zinc chemicals suffered the most in the area of rubber compounding for tires, which makes up about 20% of the total consumption of zinc chemicals globally. In addition, a large part of the rubber that is not consumed in the tire segment goes into other automotive applications.
The second-largest application area for zinc chemicals is the production of tiles, ceramics and glass. This industry sector also experienced strong declines in growth during the recession, in particular in North America, Europe and the CIS countries. In Europe, the ceramics segment is under pressure, not only because of the bad economic environment, but also because of lower-cost competition from China, India and Brazil.
The following pie charts show world consumption of zinc chemicals by type and by region.
In the mid- to long term, however, the zinc chemicals industry will continue to grow globally. Automobile production numbers are forecast to approximately double by 2030, as the rising standard of living of a substantial part of highly populated countries like China, India and Brazil will lead to increased car ownership and increased use of ceramics in construction, thus increasing the consumption of zinc chemicals.
In addition, zinc chemicals are expected to show dramatic growth in the area of fertilizer use, animal feed and food consumption. More than 50% of the soils in the world are considered to be deficient in zinc; this percentage is growing and could be as high as 65% in 2018. The lives of an estimated 800,000 people annually are at risk as a result of zinc deficiency—450,000 of these are children under the age of five.
In many studies, including projects in Brazil, China, India and Turkey, agricultural yields were increased in zinc-deficient regions by adding zinc to standard fertilizers and premixes. With the world population having doubled in the past thirty years, and projected to increase from 7 billion to over 9 billion by 2050, food consumption is forecast to grow 70%. With arable land per person declining, crop yields must increase. Options include improvements in seed technology and improvements in crop protection. However, the greatest potential for improvement is fertilizers and micronutrients, and in particular zinc. Widespread- and medium-zinc-deficiency world regions include large parts of the United States, as well as Central and South America, central and southern African countries, India, the Middle East and China. If zinc fertilization were to become standard in these world regions, world consumption of zinc chemicals could double in the next ten to fifteen years.
The Zinc Nutrient Initiative of the International Zinc Association and the International Fertilizer Industry Association represents a new program since 2009, with the overall goal of increasing the use of zinc in fertilizers. The Indian and Chinese governments have started multibillion dollar programs to support the initiative. Trials are under way in India, China, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Brazil. With significant amounts of zinc needed in India, China, Africa and South America, it is clear that this potential future market could substantially increase the global markets for zinc sulfate within the next few years.
World consumption of zinc chemicals is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 4.5%.