Global production of manufactured fiber was 65.2 million metric tons in 2014, an increase of 166% from the 24.5 million tons produced in 1994. Over the past twenty years synthetic types, e.g. polyester, have shown strong long-term growth and now account for 82% of worldwide production.


In 2014 global production – in million metric tons – for the key fiber types was: polyester 49.2, olefin 3.5, nylon 4.6, and acrylic 1.8. Over the past twenty years, polyester has maintained a
substantial lead in volume.


Individual fiber production patterns have resulted in significant shifts in fiber shares. Polyester production share has moved from 47% in 1994 to 76% in 2014, a 29% absolute share gain. Over
the twenty year period, olefin share has declined from 17% to 5%.


Growth in manufactured fiber production has resulted in a major shift in production from North America and Europe to Asia. In 2014 Asian production was 52.5 million metric tons compared with 2.9 in North America, 3.1 in Western Europe. Production in Eastern Europe has declined significantly – from a peak of 1.9 million metric tons in the late 1980’s to 0.6 in 2014.


Reversing a historical down-trend in 2003, cellulosic fiber production returned to its previous peak of 3 million metric tons in the early 1980’s but has shown dramatic growth in recent years,
reaching 5.0 million metric tons in 2014. The regional trend has been characterized by strong growth in Asia, particularly China, offset by a drastic decline in North America and Western Europe.


Asian share of global manufactured fiber production was 81% in 2014. This compares with a North American and Western Europe combined share of 40% in 1994, down to 8% in 2014. The other significant shift in the twenty year period was Eastern Europe – moving from 5% to 1% in 2014.


From 1994 through 2014 trend growth for all manufactured fibers was 5.0%. For the twenty year period, synthetics grew at 7.6% per year, while cellulosics increased at a rate of 4.0% per year. Within the synthetic group, polyester grew at 7.6%, nylon at 1.1%, olefin at -1.0%. The trend acrylic growth was a negative 1.6%.


The twenty year average annual growth trend for manufactured fibers by region reflects 7.9% growth in Asia and 3.8% for all other regions except North America, Western Europe and Eastern Europe where the twenty growth rate was a negative 2.8%, 2.0% and 3.1% respectively.


For the last six years worldwide manufactured fiber has cycled around the 5.0% twenty year trend line but in response to the global recession in 2008 declined for the first time in history by
4.5% followed by a weak 2.4% gain in 2009. In 2010 an unprecedented increase of 11.8% was recorded, reflecting increase in final demand and rebuilding of inventories up and down the textile chain. In 2013 and 2014 the growth rate fell back, showing increases of 5.7% and 4.5% respectively, in line with the long term trend growth of 5%.

Editor’s Note: The above data is drawn from annual World Surveys of Manufactured Fiber Production, completed each year by the Fiber Economics Bureau and published in June issue of the Bureau’s monthly statistical journal, The Fiber Organon. The world survey has been a regular feature of the Organon since 1952.