The pigment industry has faced a great many challenges in recent years, in particular because of worldwide overcapacity and the influx of offshore products. This has led to decreases in prices for many products, and in some cases, dramatic reductions.
As a result, the International Trade Commission (ITC) has stepped in. A January 2004 ruling by the ITC on carbazole violet 23 pigments states that “There is a reasonable indication that an industry in the United States is materially injured by reason of imports from China and India of carbazole violet pigment 23,” and that action may be taken.
In talking with pigment suppliers, the fact that the price of carbazole violet decreased from approximately $40 per pound to $12 per pound in the last few years drew the attention of the government. It is believed that other pigments may be examined, and the impact of the ruling on pricing remains to be seen.
Considering the standard wisdom on pigment selection, that price rules everything, one might expect prices to remain low even should imports be limited. However, in talking with some ink manufacturers about pigment selection, I found the contrary. The presidents of smaller ink companies said that quality and consistency were, by far, the driving forces behind their pigment-purchasing decisions. For more on this, please see “Ink Manufacturers Talk about Pigment Purchasing” on page 36.
For these companies, providing quality products to their customers is the key to their survival, and any deviation from that quality could prove costly.
Relationships were also a factor in the pigment buying process, with some companies preferring to remain loyal to suppliers who have worked with them over the years.
Of course, price is an issue, but, as one executive put it, purchasing less expensive pigment may cost an ink manufacturer more in the long run. The same has been said about the total value versus price of ink, and that a less expensive ink may cost more to run on press. It is an argument that ink companies are familiar with, and it is heartening to see that for some ink companies, they hold the same value for their suppliers as well.