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Polinox surprised the Brazilian composites market last year by expanding the production capacity of its plant located in Itupeva, Brazil to 360 tons/month, despite the Brazilian demand for composites plummeting in the same period.
According to the Latin American Composite Materials Association (ALMACO), there was a sharp drop of 21.2%. Far from the cliché ‘crisis is an opportunity’ common in corporate self-help books, the path taken by Polinox is solely based on the finding that the per capita consumption of composites in Brazil, of less than 2 kg, is miles away from the numbers reported abroad: 8 kg in the US, 5 kg in Europe and 4 kg in Asia.
“The current scenario is obviously very difficult, the country is facing one of its worst crises and we must review all expenditures, really fasten our seatbelts. But we cannot forget the comparison of per capita consumption. In addition to this instability, there is a huge shortage in the country in industries where composites are arguably the best alternatives, such as popular housing, public transportation and basic sanitation,” said Roberto Pontifex, Director of Polinox.
According to the Ministry of Cities, to eliminate the housing deficit, Brazil needs nothing less than seven million houses, and composites have already been approved by government agencies for the construction of popular housing units. With 86% of its population of 204 million people living in cities and needing to commute – one out of four Brazilians takes the bus on a daily basis, according to the National Confederation of Industries (CNI) – the country needs US$ 60 billion in investments for the implementation of 343 mobility projects (data from the National Confederation of Transport – CNT). In addition, the fleet circulating in the Brazilian streets is old. Approximately 400,000 buses, for example, have an average age of 8 years and 8 months, according to the National Association of Auto Parts Manufacturers (Sindipeças).
With regard to sanitation, 59.4% of Brazilians are served with proper water supply services and only 39.7% have access to the sanitary sewage system, according to the National Plan for Basic Sanitation. In other words, there is a low access to piped water and (extremely) low access to the sewage collection system.
“In parallel, wind power generation is experiencing a period of strong expansion in Brazil, boosting the sales of both polyester and epoxy resin-based composites,” said Pontifex. In 2015, wind power accounted for 5.5% (7.7 GW) of the Brazilian energy matrix and, according to estimates of the Brazilian Wind Energy Association (ABEEólica), it should reach 11.3% (22 GW) in 2023.
Pontifex also highlights other applications with huge potential for the composites industry, such as light poles – much lighter than concrete, are ideal for regions that can only be accessed by river transport, like many cities in the Amazon – and boats. In this case, despite the huge coastline and hundreds of navigable rivers, Brazil manufactures only 5,000 boats a year – in the US, for example, the average is 250,000.
For these reasons, Polinox continues to invest in the Brazilian composites market. There will be thousands of opportunities for those who are prepared to meet this huge repressed demand. We just need a small improvement in the economic situation of the country, with a better balance on the political scenario, although this may be far from happening in 2016,” concludes Pontifex.
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