Exports of plastics and rubber processing machinery from Italy hit an all-time high in 2015, according to the annual figures released by industry body Assocomaplast.
There was a 3.8% rise in the total value of production of machinery, equipment and moulds in Italy to €4.15bn.
Assocomaplast president Alessandro Grassi said: "The most heartening item for Italian companies is exports, which once again have proven to be the driving force for the sector. Indeed, a significant upsurge in the final months of the year took exports past the threshold of €2.9bn, setting an all-time record, going well beyond the €2.75bn in 2007."
The €2.9bn of exports in 2015 was 8.4% higher than €2.685bn in 2014. The bulk of Italy's polymer machinery exports were delivered to Europe – 60.2% of all Italian exports in 2015, unchanged from 2014. Within that share, exports to the EU were 49.7% in 2015, up from 48.7% in 2014.
Assocomaplast said there was a year-on-year increase of 11% in exports to EU countries, highlighting Poland rising to third place among destination countries and accounting for 5% of Italian exports. This contrasted with the “persistent contraction in the Russian market, still reeling from the well known economic and political turmoil”, it said.
Germany remains Italy's main trading partner, increasing its imports of Italian machinery by 14% in 2015.
North America was the highlight among other world regions, accounting for 13.7% of Italian machinery exports in 2015 (up from 10.8% in 2014). Sales to US converters were boosted by 50% in 2015 to more than €260m, and growth in the order of 20 percentage points was also recorded in Mexico and Canada.
Other regional export markets contracted: Central and South America accounted for a 6.0% share in 2015 (7.3% in 2014); Africa 4.5% in 2015 (5.1% in 2014); and Asia and Oceania 15.6% in 2015 (16.6% in 2014).
In Asia, Assocomaplast noted the decline in the Chinese market affecting both Italian and German polymer machinery groups. India, however, generated a 16% increase in export sales for Italian companies in 2015.
While export markets have been the mainstay for Italian machinery producers in recent years, it looks like the domestic market is now finally making a recovery. The value of machinery sales in Italy increased by 2.3% from €1.955bn in 2014 to €2.0bn in 2015.
“An 18% increase in imports [to €750m in 2015] also supports the sensation of recovery in the domestic market expressed by members on a number of occasions last year,” said Assocomaplast.
“In parallel, the survey conducted in early March  among a significant sample of Italian converters highlights improvement over February of last year and the 3-4-month forecasts also show a strong upward trend in orders and production.”