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The Chinese soda ash industry remains the largest of any nation and is continuing to expand but faces increasing economic problems that are affecting the financial viability of some operations. A prime cause of this is the continued opening of new capacity at a higher rate than domestic consumption. Where previously Chinese producers could export soda ash they are facing increasing competition from US producers who are enjoying highly competitive production costs. This has led to a number of capacity expansions in the US where producers have become increasingly dependent on the export market because of weakness in domestic consumption.
In Europe producers are facing a number of difficulties, which has led to the closure of a number of operations over the last decade. These include rising production costs and stagnant regional consumption, and most recently competition from new Turkish capacity. Some European producers have switched to supplying higher value products, notably sodium bicarbonate, in order to remain competitive. Turkish companies are now significant suppliers to the Middle East/Europe and will become more important in the future as additional capacity is planned. The Indian market is now protected from lower cost imports by tariffs and is likely to show lower growth in demand as a consequence. The South American market has grown markedly in recent years and will become increasingly important in the future, especially to US producers.