Foam supply update from EUROPUR

The European Association of Flexible Polyurethane Foam Blocks Manufacturers (EUROPUR) has shared an update on the supply chain issues impacting foam.

Generally, major supply issues have continued to affect the industry through November and the situation is only slowly improving in December.

However as the situation is not the same for all chemical raw materials, different parts of the industry may not be affected in the same way.

Producers of TDI-based foams (notably for the mattress and furniture market and to a certain degree for the automotive market) experienced a very difficult month of November and the situation is hardly improving in December.

While the two European producers that had experienced production outages in October have now restarted production, they have not lifted force majeure and supply to foam producers remains on allocation.

The price instability that comes with such supply issues continues to very much affect the industry. According to Plastics Information Europe, the average price of TDI for example increased from 2,300 EUR / tonne in June to 3,300 EUR per tonne in mid-November, with some transactions reported at 5,000 EUR / tonne during that month.

The trend is said to continue in December.

Despite all this, demand for foam remains strong in Europe, especially in the furniture and bedding sectors.

Speaking about the situation, Bart ten Brink, President of EUROPUR, said: “2020 has really been a rollercoaster year for the foam industry. Overall, we can be glad – compared to many industries out there – that demand is still strong, especially in the comfort sector. However, in my several decades in the foam industry, I have never seen such a scramble for raw materials in terms of availability and ensuing price instability.

“As I said back in October, I really encourage the supply chain to think and act about security of supply. The situation seen in the last months is really endangering the credibility of our PU materials as such, in many (end-consumer) market-segments. The holiday period is traditionally a period where less foam is produced. I sincerely hope that buffers of raw materials can be built during that period so that we can start 2021 in a better, more stable supply position, and more appeased pricing, than we end up with for 2020.”