The Italian rubber and plastics machinery sector registered strong growth in 2017, with higher production and sales rates compared to the year before.
According to the latest figures published by trade body Amaplast, which represents 170 manufacturers of plastics and rubber processing machinery, production grew 10 percent year-over-year to $5.6 billion in 2017.
Machinery exports stood at $4 billion for the year, up 12 percent compared to 2016.
Italy's domestic market also grew 10 percent to $2.8 billion, while imports of machinery rose 14 percent to $1.19 billion.
Commenting on the figures, Amaplast said the double digit increase across all macroeconomic indicators set new records for the sector. The trade body attributed the recovery in part to the implementation of the "national industry 4.0 plan" in Italy.
"The order portfolio horizon for Italian manufacturers," Amaplast President Alessandro Grassi said, "has been considerably extended: many companies are able to plan production at least to the end of the year, and there are quite a few that are actually having difficulty keeping up with customer requests."
Exports to all geographical destinations rose, particularly in the European Union, led by key markets Germany and France, which grew by more than 20 percentage points since 2016.
The most significant change in Europe came in Romania, which saw exports rise by 69 percent following a surge in purchases during the last quarter. The last-minute surge also dislodged Russia from the Top 10 list, after it had clawed its way back last September.
"Nevertheless, the Russian recovery still continues apace, at 67 percent, with the value of Italian machinery exports nearly reaching $122.8 million," Amaplast said.
Sales in Asia, however, were impacted by a slowdown in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Iran, and a "modest" 5 percent growth in the far east, where the Chinese and Indian markets shrank by 2.5 percent and India 6 percent, respectively.
In North America, sales to the U.S. increased by 20 percent, while supplies to Mexico fell 17 percent, following a 2016 boom.
"The Trump administration's threat to impose import duties on various product categories is not expected to affect plastics and rubber processing machinery, equipment and molds," Amaplast noted.
U.S. production in this sector cannot meet demand from local manufacturers and "the duties would only be counterproductive."
Top 10 destinations for Italian machinery were Germany, the U.S., France, Poland, Spain, Mexico, China, Czech Republic, the United Kingdom and Romania.