European producers are struggling to correct the shortage and prices have spiked.
ABS imports from South Korea are down 40% in 2020, according to the latest Eurostat data.
The numbers from January to August show that on average EU27 imports of ABS from South Korea were 40% lower in 2020.
While for the same period there was little change in 2018 and 2019, a big gap has opened in 2020.
For months now buyers in Europe have been saying they cannot secure sufficient volumes because of the lower imports.
The reduction earlier in the year was probably to do more with low demand, which got worse during the lockdowns in Europe.
But after the spring, while demand in Europe picked up, the Chinese market rallied.
The strong activity in China pushed up ABS prices in Asia which are now approximately $500/mt above European prices.
To put it into context, Asian imports in Europe are normally €100/mt below domestic prices.
Imports from the region are an integral part of the ABS market in Europe, representing about 40% of the market.
While volumes from the region have not gone to zero due to strategic and contractual reasons, the fall was enough to cause severe shortages.
European producers are running their plants flat out to try to fill this gap but are finding it hard to satisfy all the enquiries.
An element of pre-buying due to shortages and expectations of higher costs, together with better activity, was also fuelling demand.
And the situation has become critical for some buyers who claim they cannot get volumes even at prices above €2,000/mt.