Overview - Chemicals and Plastics

An Expert's View about Sales in Belgium

Last updated: 11 Apr 2011

With a turnover of $ 71.5 billion in 2008 the chemical industry in Belgium accounts for one-fifth of total turnover in Belgium’s manufacturing sector as a whole. Direct employment in the chemical and life sciences industry totals 94,000 jobs, or 16% of all employment in the entire manufacturing sector. In addition, the chemical and life sciences industry generates about 150,000 indirect jobs in other sectors of the Belgian economy. The Belgian chemical industry accounts for more than 6% of the total European turnover in this sector, even though Belgium’s share of the total EU population is only 2.1%.

The average yearly growth rate for the chemical industry reached 3.5% the last ten years. In 2009 there growth has slowed industry wide. There are no figures available for Belgium however sources agree that the industry has recovered, though will not match pre-Great Recession numbers for some time.

The port of Antwerp plays a crucial role in this industry. It is the largest and most diversified petrochemical centre in Europe. No fewer than seven of the ten largest chemical companies in the world have one or more production sites within the Antwerp petrochemical cluster. Nowhere in the world are more chemical substances produced than in the Antwerp port area. Thanks to the Antwerp Integrated Model, there is a degree of integration between the various producing companies that is not found anywhere else.

Sub-Sector Best Prospects

The Belgian long-term outlook for plastics and resins is favorable, due to Belgium's central location in Europe and its port of Antwerp which is the world’s second largest chemical cluster after Houston, TX. The Antwerp area has a large concentration of chemical and petroleum industries, which provide raw materials for the plastics and resins industries. In addition, the increasing use of plastics in automobiles and in isolating materials for the construction industry is favorable to the sector’s growth.

The plastics & rubber industry employs some 25,000 people in Belgium, and generates a turnover of almost $ 11.7 billion. The sector grew by 8.8% in 2006 and 6.4% in 2007, making Belgium the world’s top market for the production and processing of plastics, per capita. More recent figures are unavailable.

Belgium hosts 252 plastics and rubber converting SME companies, and 57 plastics and rubber producers and trading companies. The main markets are: automotive (21.2%), packaging (21%), compounds and recycling (19.2%) and construction (14.8%). Flanders, with its Port of Antwerp which is the second biggest in Europe, accounts for 74% of the plastics and rubber converting industry turnover.

Belgium exports of plastics and rubber amounted to $21.6 billion in 2006, representing 9.1% of total Belgian exports (+11.6% over 2006). 83% of plastics and 88% of rubber industry exports go to other EU countries. Imports into Belgium of plastics and rubber amounted to $13.8 billion in 2007 (+9.7% over 2006). More recent figures are unavailable.

Read the complete commercial guide to Doing Business in Belgium

Posted: 10 April 2011, last updated 11 April 2011

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