Companies claim dumping hits cellulose gum market

Related tags Cellulose

Allegations that companies from Europe and Mexico are selling the
ingredient carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) at greatly reduced prices
in the US have prompted an investigation by the country's
International Trade Commission.

The move comes in the wake of a complaint by Hercules subsidiary Aqualon that producers from Finland, the Netherlands, Mexico and Sweden are dumping CMC on the US market.

CMC is a water-soluble polymer that is used in pharmaceutical formulations as a binder, thickener, stabiliser and film former. Some grades of the ingredient act as so-called 'super disintegrants' which are routinely included in tablet formulations and some hard shell capsule formulations to promote moisture penetration and dispersion of the matrix of the dosage form.

CMC is also used in food products such as dressings, ice cream, baked goods, puddings and sauces, and personal care products such as toothpaste.

A six-person panel of ITC​ commissioners carried out a preliminary investigation into Hercules' allegations back in June, and found that there was sufficient evidence to merit further investigation, ideally by the US Department of Commerce.

Preliminary anti-dumping rulings by the USDC are expected on around 16 November.

The CMC market is dominated by a handful of companies. US group JM Huber is the market leader, with its Finland-based Noviant unit controlling around 30 per cent. The group - which manufactures pharma-grade CMC under the Cekel brand - recently tightened its grip on supplies of the ingredient after acquiring​ control of CP Kelco last month from the investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Huber already had a 28 per cent share in CP Kelco, which is also based in the US, acquiring it from Hercules back in January. Hercules had been expected to strengthen its position in CP Kelco - formed in September 2000 from Hercules' Food Gums division and the Kelco Biopolymers division of Monsanto Pharmacia - but has instead opted to sell its shares.

Nonetheless, Hercules continues to be a major player in the CMC market, adding the Chinese producer Quantum Hi-Tech to its portfolio back in 2003. China is widely regarded as the fastest growing market for cellulose ethers in the world, and is a platform for Hercules' growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

In its petition to the ITC, Hercules estimated that US imports of purified CMC from Finland were worth around $23.4 million in 2003, while imports from Mexico were $3.4 million, Dutch imports were $15.7 million and Swedish imports totalled around $4.7 million.

Other main CMC producers include Akzo Nobel, which owns the Akucell brand, and FMC Biopolymer, which supplies products specifically for the pharmaceutical and dietary supplement sectors.

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