2002 has been another challenging year for the printing ink industry. Overall, dollar and volume sales are down from even 2001’s low levels. Meanwhile, raw material prices are climbing in some areas, particularly naphthalene, which presents more problems for margins.
On top of that, uncertainty in the Middle East remains a major threat. If tensions escalate, the worldwide economy will be affected and oil prices may jump. That will undoubtedly lead to further increases in raw material costs.
However, there is some good news to report in our annual comprehensive Year in Review, beginning on page 25. Many leading ink industry executives believe that sales of ink during the past few months have improved.
The third-quarter survey conducted by the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) bears that out. While overall ink sales year-to-date declined 4 percent in volume and 5.2 percent in dollars from the first three quarters of 2001, the third quarter in 2002 showed total ink volume increasing by 7.2 percent over the second quarter, with sales for the period increasing 4.8 percent. This was the second consecutive quarter of improvements. In particular, the numbers for packaging inks are better than sales and volume figures for publication and commercial.
The numbers for the third quarter of 2002 versus the same period in 2001 were fairly similar. Ink volume from 2002 to 2001 was down 0.7 percent, and sales declined 3 percent. The numbers from 2001 would just have started to feel the impact of the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, after which the economy further declined.
Aside from the relatively stable sales and volume figures in the packaging segment, there is also good news being reported by ink industry leaders for the non-impact and energy-curing fields. In addition, companies are working on new technologies that offer much promise for the coming years.
With all of this in mind, we can hope that 2003 will be a better year for the industry. However, time will tell whether the improvement in sales that we have seen will continue and a full economic recovery does indeed become reality.