Raw materials in trouble

Scarcity of raw materials, chip shortage, high costs for materials, transports and energy … the “pains” affecting the engineering industry today (Credits: oldTor)
Scarcity of raw materials, chip shortage, high costs for materials, transports and energy … the “pains” affecting the engineering industry today (Credits: oldTor)

The last part of the year seems to confirm a recovery in economic and social ambit, too, but the shortage of commodities, of semiconductors and of microchips, together with the booming growth of logistic and energy costs, represent a looming threat.

«Engineering companies– declares Pietro Almici, vice-president of Anima Confindustria – are living a period of objective recovery, but the criticalities of prices and scarcity of raw materials go on affecting them. This is worsened by the extraordinary rise of energy costs, which is exerting its impact on enterprises, compelling them to revise their manufacturing activities. Currently the situation is confusing: precisely when companies had consolidated the prospect of a price stabilization, the energy component has occurred to shake markets again. As confirmed by the last analysis by the Study Centre of Confindustria, the industrial production has in fact registered a slowdown in the third quarter of 2021, with a +1.0% growth. We hope this worsening of the scenario is temporary and does not damage the recovery in course. Anima Confindustria, one of the first witnesses already active in April –Almici ends– continues then its activity of awareness-raising on the theme of the price rise of energy and of raw materials, both towards institutions and the public opinion».

The analysis by Achille Fornasini– professor of Brescia University and coordinator of the short-term business trend observatory of Anima Confindustria – highlights how the race to post-lockdown provisioning has generated an anomalous unbalance between demand and offer, which has triggered sudden price rises of most raw materials intended for the industrial transformation. «However, besides this phenomenon–Fornasini states – natural gas has recently come to the fore, with its quotations that have scored historical records repeatedly, with immediate repercussions on the production costs of the electric energy. The only cost of the raw material, on the other hand, does not explain the increase of the electric bill recently mitigated by the Government: it is in fact necessary to consider also the strong price rise that has affected the cost of the “permission to pollute” demanded by the CO2 anti-pollution policies undertaken by the European Union, unfortunately prey to financial speculation».

A “rally” that is further intensifying, which for the most energy-eating sectors is worsening a situation already burdened by the transport crisis, which in its turn hinders the feeding of international supply chains. «Therefore,– Fornasini adds– both the rises of prices and of freight rates and the slowdowns in the provisioning of raw materials and basic components persist, like microchips, whose shortage is affecting various industrial fields: an offer defect that represents the outcome of the “whip” effect generated when the sharp demand drop caused by the lockdown was followed by the sudden planetary recovery. It was so caused the stress of supply chains, especially of very long and polarized ones, like those precisely dedicated to the production of miniaturized electronic circuits».

Alberto Xodo from the London Metal Exchange and speaker of “Raw Materials Focus” from Anima outlines the state-of-the-art: «In the last two years, the markets of metals, and more in general of raw materials, have been characterized by an extreme price volatility. This situation has made the business case for the price risk management even more urgent, and has supported the development of futures markets for steel».
The price volatility is not the only issue under the spotlights for the sector of metals in this period. «Themes such as sustainability, the diffusion of electric vehicles and the emergence of digital purchase platforms–Xodo goes on– are some of the new trends that the London Metal Exchange is facing with a range of new services and initiatives».