CBA: Chemical supply chain expecting continued disruption

The Chemical Business Association (CBA), the voice of the UK chemical supply chain, has released results from the latest quarterly supply chain survey, with industry-wide respondents* reporting a decline in order books, sales and margins from the previous three months.

The CBA’s Supply Chain Trends Survey represents the independent chemical supply chain. It has been published since 2003 and aims to provide a snapshot of short-term trends in the UK’s chemical supply chain.

Published for over 20 years, the survey has become a barometer for the sector, covering sales, order books and employment, as well as the current impact of supply chain challenges.

It is distributed to the Association’s membership, which covers distributors, manufacturers, traders, warehouse operators, logistics and transport companies amongst other sectors and it aims to provide a snapshot of short-term trends in the UK’s chemical supply chain.

The latest survey, with results from quarter three, reports a distinct downturn in sales trends.

Only 4.6% of respondents reporting order books to have improved from the previous quarter, compared with 14.9% in Q2.

This trend continues with only 9.1% reporting better sales, compared with 17.4% from the previous survey.

Not only highlighting a consistent downturn, the survey also reports a lack of confidence in improvements for the near term.

When asked about future sales, 54.5% of responding members expected these to be worse, compared with 34.1% in Q2.

Overall, sales margins have not weakened, however concern for the future continues when asked about margins. None of the responding members are expecting an improvement in the final quarter of 2023.

The outlook in employment is also less optimistic, with only 13.64% of respondents expecting an uptake in employment over the coming quarter, compared with 23.9% in the Q2 survey, and 38.5% twelve months ago.

Despite this, the CBA said it is happy to report little evidence from the latest survey that suggests companies will be reducing their employment levels in the near future.

Amongst the uncertainty, the survey does reveal significant ocean freight container shortages to be a thing of the past, with only 5% of members reporting any issues throughout the previous two chemical supply chain surveys.

Road haulage capacity in the EU has also improved significantly in the last 12 months, however, escalating shipping costs remain an issue for 20% of respondents. This has not declined further since the previous survey.

Tim Doggett, Chemical Business Association CEO said of the results: “The latest survey is concerning as it indicates a general downturn and cooling in the market.”

“The survey cannot be overstated. It provides us with real time evidence-based information which helps shape our policy, allowing us to lobby and advocate on the issues that matter most to our members.

“It accentuates the areas in which our membership and indeed the wider supply chain that we represent can benefit from the numerous partnerships, initiatives and programmes we are leading and involved in.

“It also highlights the importance of the wider services we provide, such as our help desk and the one-to-one advice we give our members, not to mention the countless seminars, workshops and talks we regularly organise on industry issues, as well as our extensive UK and international outreach, including overseas trade missions.”

*The survey sample polled 52 CBA members.