In 2010, the chemical industry experienced a significant recovery.
In March 2009, production levels reached a low point, changing direction towards an upward trend. Between March 2009 and December 2010, the rate of production increased 19.5%.
This recovery was underpinned by a number of factors: the general tendency within the sector to use up stock reserves had come to an end; there was significant demand for chemicals from other client sectors; and there was a general recovery in global trading levels.
However, the blockade at the Port of Marseille led to a serious crisis, accentuating the slowdown in production experienced during the fourth quarter of 2010.
On average, production levels were 10.8% higher in 2010 than in 2009, having gone down 9.4% year-on-year in 2009.
The chemical industry is a key component of French industry and of the nation’s economy. In 2010, its value added was estimated to be €17.7bn.
In 2009, the French chemical industry* employed 175 000 people directly, i.e. 6% of all staff employed by the French manufacturing sector. Indirectly, it was responsible for 700 000 jobs.
Foreign trading of French chemicals remained at high levels in 2010, and the chemical industry maintained its position as the leading sector* for exports, accounting for 13.4% of all exports from the French manufacturing sector (including agricultural and food industries), ahead of the construction industry, aeronautics and space, and automotives. With a trade surplus of €5bn, its balance of trade is in 4th place with respect to other industrial sectors. Aeronautics and space are in 1st place, beverages 2nd and manufacture of medicines 3rd.
Since 1990, production levels of the chemical industry have increased at an average rate of 1.9% per year. Over the last ten years, this growth rate has fallen to 0.7% per year on average. This overall trend hides the varying performances within the sector, as Basic Chemicals and Speciality Chemicals fell into recession, while Soaps and Perfumes forged ahead. Besides the considerable restructuring which took place in the industry over the period, good progress has been made in terms of productivity.
* Including Pharmaceuticals