In each issue of FreeFlow magazine, our business leaders from around the world share their insights into the global methacrylates markets.

Here, Kozo Hisamoto, Senior Manager of Mitsubishi Chemical’s MMA business domain, offers his latest views and analysis for Asia (as of May 2020).

Can you describe some of the changes in MMA demand in Asia recently due to COVID-19 and how you see the region is recovering from this?

In January (first half), the demand in China was somewhat stable due to the relaxation of the US-China trade friction and the normal rush of demand before the Chinese New Year. In late January, the impact of COVID-19 became serious, starting from China then expanding to other countries, with the regional demand worsening dramatically. In China the worst period now seems to be over, due to the removal (or softening) of infection control measures, but the situation is unpredictable because of concerns about a potential second wave.

Some countries in North East and South East Asia and India have been extending the activity-restriction, and the local demand in such countries is stagnant. As mentioned already, the demand in China has improved already to some extent. At this point in time it is difficult to say when, and at what pace, the regional (or specific country) demand will recover but the situation is being monitored closely.

How would you describe the impact that the new MMA capacity added in the last 12 months has had on supply side dynamics in Asia?

Two MMA production lines (both ACH-process) came on stream in the Q4 (Oct-Dec) 2019 in China. Because the start-up of these new lines was late in the year and their initial output was limited, there was no specific impact on the market dynamics in China. Demand thus far in 2020 has not been normal due to the COVID-19 impact, and the supply side has also been seriously disrupted, so it has not been possible to quantify the impact of these new assets on the marketplace.

It is a turbulent time for manufacturers in Asia (especially China) and hence we are waiting to see the capability of the supply side as the economy recovers from the precautions taken to combat COVID-19.

Can you explain how MCC is approaching this market and the plans that it has going forward?

The MCC group has multiple production sites in Asia (and globally) with all three of the main technology routes for the manufacture of MMA and hence is able to optimise its production across these units based on operating costs to satisfy demand. We are continually monitoring and modifying our global sales and operational planning activity in response to the disturbances from the global pandemic in order to maintain a stable supply to our customers.