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LEATHERHEAD – Absorbent hygiene products remain the main use for fluff pulp and its manufacturers are set for a boom year in 2022, according to a new report from Smithers.

Record prices and recovering demand will push global consumption to a yield of 6.9 million air dried metric tons this year, with a market value of $8.31 billion, up from $6.88 billion in 2021, according to exclusive forecasting in the new market study The Future of Fluff Pulp to 2027.

The price of fluff pulp is currently approaching $2,000 per air dried ton – nearly four times its historic average. Demand has been stimulated by the recovery of the world economy post-Covid, and strengthened by the call for more sustainable materials in hygiene applications (diapers/nappies, toddler training pants, adult incontinence, and feminine hygiene goods) as well as other nonwovens, especially wipes.

The Smithers report examines the outlook for this year and the longer-term prospects through to 2027 – with a specific analysis of current and future demand, fluff mill capacities and investment, as well as competing technologies.

Despite several mill expansions in South America in the past five years, in 2022 global fluff pulp supply remains constrained even as demand continues to build. Swing production – mills switching from producing dissolving or papermaking pulps to fluff pulp – will be key to meeting customer demand in the short and medium term.

Overall, world fluff pulp consumption will increase to 8.13 million air dried tons in 2027 – a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.4%. The market will be unable to sustain the record prices seen in the first half of 2022, but will remain buoyant. Smithers forecasts global value will reach $8.63 billion in 2027, as prices and supply adjust towards historic norms.

Net exporter

North America is the key producer of fluff pulp. In 2022 it is the only world region that is a net exporter, although it is anticipated it will soon be joined by South America. New demand through 2022-

2027 will come mostly from Asia, consuming 2.9 million air dried tons valued at $3.0 billion in 2022. Asia is also set to develop its first domestic fluff pulp production industry within the year.

Fluff pulp use will generally track demand for hygiene and other nonwovens goods in the post-Covid economy. In North America and Western Europe, these consumer segments are relatively mature, and are facing some distinct challenges that will change fluff pulp consumption patterns. Hygiene goods will account for nearly 90% of global volumes in 2022, but design changes will mean that growth will be essentially flat through to 2027, with greater sales of diapers that use less or no fluff pulp in their absorbent cores.

Growth will be much faster in nonwoven substrate applications, especially airlaid constructions. This is supported by the global trend towards the elimination of plastics and plastic waste, especially in wipes. Fluff pulp is one the most sustainable raw materials in the nonwovens inventory and wipes can contain 80-85% fluff pulp, while this can rise to 90% for other products like table covers. R&D is now focused on developing biodegradable airlaid product lines, without plastic binders or bonding fibres. There is also a small, but rapidly accelerating market, for fluff pulp in spunlace nonwovens.

Southern soft woods will remain the main tree species used in fluff pulp, supplemented by other species, including South America eucalyptus grades, and a limited use of fluff pulp made from recovered/recycled sources.


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