Struggling chemical industry faces idle production lines and lack of investment

The Belgian chemical and pharmaceutical industry is facing a very worrying future, the national industry association essenscia said on Wednesday. According to the association, there is no investment in the pipeline and production lines are idle.

After years of continuous growth, Belgium's chemical and pharmaceutical companies faced a sharp trend reversal in 2023. The industries experienced the steepest decline in production in 15 years, fewer jobs are being created and exports have fallen by almost a fifth, reports essenscia.

Specifically, capacity utilisation in Belgium has fallen to a record low of 65 per cent, meaning production lines are at a virtual standstill.

"Nothing, I've never seen anything like it"

What worries the industry even more is that no new investments are being made. "Nothing, I've never seen anything like it," said Yves Verschueren, managing director of essenscia. Normally there are about 10 investments a year.

Chemical companies in particular - the pharmaceutical sector is in better shape - are therefore looking to the future with a lot of doubt. Capacity utilisation at chemical companies is expected to remain low in 2024.

European industry in danger

According to the association, high energy prices, over-regulation and investment uncertainty are weakening companies' competitive position. The industry urgently needs an industrial policy at all levels, says essenscia.

"For the last five years, Europe has had no industrial policy at all. After the Green Deal, we urgently need an Industrial Deal. If not, the de-industrialisation of Europe is imminent, especially in the chemical industry," said Verschueren.



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