SINGAPORE — The International Rubber Study Group (IRSG) is forecasting a rebound in demand for rubber in 2021 by up to 7.1% in 2021, thus recovering nearly 100% of the volume lost in 2020 from the economic maladies driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the December 2020 edition of its World Rubber Industry Outlook, the Singapore-based industry body states that overall demand for rubber fell 8% in 2020 to around 26.5 million metric tons estimated for 2020.
Broken down, the IRSG figures show world natural rubber (NR) demand is expected to fall by 8.1% in 2020 to 12.5 million tons and projected to rebound by 7% in 2021 — helped by strong recovery in the commercial vehicle segment in mature and emerging markets.
World synthetic rubber (SR) demand is expected to decline 7.9% to just shy of 14 million tons, and is forecast to recover by 7.2% in 2021.
For 2020, global demand from the tire sector for rubber is expected to contract by 10.2%, the IRSG said, compared with a fall of just 5% in the non-tire products sector, which experienced a surge in demand for latex gloves and other rubber products from the global health care industry.
Nevertheless, the pandemic the continuing to exert substantial pressure on world economies.
"Targeted containment measures on resurgence/mutation of virus is stalling the rebound and daily measures on mobility remain below the pre-COVID level," the IRSG said.
According to the report, stronger rubber demand in China, driven by vehicle sales in OE and replacement markets helped to "soften" the contraction in 2020.
World NR production is expected to be down by 5.9% in 2020, the IRSG said. Tapping days lost due to extreme weather, leaf fall disease and labor shortages during the pandemic disrupted production in major producing countries in southeast Asia, it noted.
Steady production growth from Mekong countries and Ivory Coast likely will offset some of the NR production losses elsewhere, the trade group said.