Chemistry sector showing resilience during COVID-19 pandemic

The first quarter of 2020 saw the Industrial Chemicals sector show a rebound from the lows of late 2019 and early resilience to the COVID-19 pandemic. Shipments of Industrial Chemicals rose 6 per cent in Q1 2020 following strong gains in several sub-sectors. Petrochemicals and Inorganic chemicals both saw small declines quarter over quarter.

Exports of Industrial Chemicals also showed resilience in Q1 2020 increasing by 5 per cent over Q4 2020 levels. The sector saw strong export gains for Petrochemicals (24.1 per cent), Industrial Gases (11.6 per cent), Organic Chemicals (10.6%) and Synthetic Resins (7.5 per cent). Inorganic chemicals (-12.8 per cent) was the only sub-sector to register a quarterly decline in exports.

As the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic began to fully unfold in April, Industrial Chemical exports declined by 13.1 per cent from the same time in 2019. However, the severity differed immensely across sub-sectors. Inorganic Chemical exports declined by 20.5 per cent while Petrochemical exports declined by 15.6 per cent. A combination of downstream market weakness and the collapse in demand for transportation fuels significantly impacted both sub-sectors. Synthetic Resin exports declined by 9.7 per cent through April, but this masks relatively strong export performance in March and April respectively and an increase from recent lows in late 2019 through January and February 2020.