Asia Pacific Rayon (APR) is one of the world’s key producers of viscose rayon. APR has penetrated Bangladesh within a few years after first being introduced to this important market that has been traditionally dominated by cotton.
This welcome addition to the volatile cotton market has opened new vistas for the industry with a wider range of quality products that are now possible for a better global standing. Textile Today caught up with Sachin Malik, Head of Global Sales, based in Singapore and Tapan Kumar, VP Marketing and Downstream Development based in Indonesia to learn about the company and its importance in the global textile industry with a focus on Bangladesh.
Textile Today: Please tell us about Asia Pacific Rayon and its origin.
Sachin Malik: Asia Pacific Rayon (APR) is the first fully integrated viscose rayon producer in Asia. Located in Pangkalan Kerinci, Riau, uses the latest production technology to produce high-quality rayon to meet textile needs. APR is committed to becoming a leading viscose rayon producer with the principles of sustainability, transparency and operational efficiency, serving the interests of the community and the country, and provides value to customers.
APR is part of the Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) Group of resource-based manufacturing companies. Inaugurated by Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo in February 2020, APR is a vertically integrated operation, from renewable fiber plantations to high-value textile development, located in Riau, Sumatra.
In the same year, Asia Pacific Yarn (APY) and Jakarta Fashion Hub (JFH) were established to respectively support yarn research and development, and promote fashion design talent and collaboration.
Textile Today: What are the key markets for APR and where does Bangladesh stand in this list?
Sachin Malik: Since its establishment 3 years ago, APR has positioned itself strongly with a growing network of customers in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Turkey. Our VSF business will continue to expand into other international markets by partnering with others in the textile value chain.
Textile Today: How do you foresee the growth of VSF in the Bangladesh market?
Sachin Malik: We have exported to more than 20 countries with key export markets being Turkey, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Bangladesh is the second-largest export market for APR with a 20% share of our total export. We have seen robust demand for viscose in Bangladesh for the past few years and it will continually increase. In addition, with the shortage of cotton as investment in spinning continues, viscose can be a good substitute.
Textile Today: Please Share Growth Plans of APR and RGE Group in Cellulose Fiber Segment
Sachin Malik: APR plans to increase its production capacity of up to 600,000 tonnes to meet the strong growth potential of viscose staple fiber (VSF) and strengthen its market position in Indonesia and export markets across the region.
The additional capacity will be achieved through improved optimization and efficiencies, and by constructing a 300,000-tonne viscose production facility in Pangkalan Kerinci, where APR is co-located with its sister company and fiber supplier, APRIL Group.
The expansion will utilize APRIL’s current rayon grade AE pulp capacity from existing pulp production lines, with fiber supplied from APRIL’s responsibly managed renewable fiber plantations in compliance with internationally recognized forest certification standards and its sustainability policy and in keeping with the recently announced APR2030 commitments and targets.
Construction of APR’s additional production lines is scheduled to commence in the second half of 2021 and will include features such as a chemical recovery process upgrade, slush-pulp processing installation and other investments aimed at reducing APR’s energy use and environmental footprint. Upon completion of the additional production lines in 2023, APR will be the world’s largest integrated single-site viscose manufacturing facility, seamlessly integrating dissolving wood pulp from APRIL’s renewable fiber plantations.
Textile Today: What makes viscose rayon fiber uniquely suitable for value-added textiles?
Tapan Kumar: The advantages of viscose are that they are inexpensive; known for its silk-like feel; drapes beautifully; breathable, similar to cotton in this regard; ideal for those seeking a luxurious look and feel at a more affordable price; blends well with other fibers, particularly woven ones; dyes easily and produces beautiful and vivid colors. With these characteristics, we can use rayon in many applications such as clothing, home textile, and sportswear, for non-woven we can apply for medical equipment even to wet wipes.
Textile Today: How sustainable is the fiber compared with other natural, synthetic and man-made fibers?
Tapan Kumar: APR’s viscose is made from 100% wood cellulose. Viscose-rayon is a natural alternative to acrylic, polyester, nylon and other petroleum-based synthetic fabrics. The highly absorbent nature of cellulose fiber enables it to take dyes very well, bringing about rich and radiant colors without losing its natural lustre.
Our wood fiber supply is sourced from sustainably managed plantations and forests. These trees are renewable resources which are harvested after 5 years for the next cycle of planting and harvesting, thus ensuring a constant supply of renewable raw materials.
Consisting of natural plant-based polymers, viscose-rayon is biodegradable and naturally decomposes into the soil. APR’s viscose staple fibers have been awarded the international OK biodegradability WATER and OK biodegradability SOIL labels by accredited certification board, TUV Austria.
Textile Today: What advice would you give to Bangladesh textile manufacturers and exporters to enhance their portfolio and range of products?
Tapan Kumar: The competitiveness of Bangladesh’s textile industry due to competitive cost and high quality workmanship is underutilized in the knitting segment. There is a huge potential for viscose based products.
Globally, cotton will continue to remain stagnant or reduced due to the limitation of land and water which makes viscose the closest alternative to cotton. Non-woven is also providing a big opportunity in the Bangladesh market. High-quality woven viscose products for ladies apparel can be added in exporters’ portfolio and demand can be shifted from high-cost countries to Bangladesh.
Textile Today: You have commented that the true potential of viscose is not fully exploited in Bangladesh market, kindly explain.
Tapan Kumar: While cotton has been widely used in textiles from ancient times due to its versatility, soft textures and comfort, now it has put people in a dilemma given the fact that cotton is highly water-intensive and dependent on fertilizers and pesticides.
Moreover, cotton production will be stagnant or shrink due to the limited availability of arable land. Therefore, it can be difficult to manage its incessant supply. Quickly responding to that, the industry is evolving to introduce alternatives for cotton.
And this is where regenerated cellulose fibers come in. Regenerated cellulose fibers are formed by regenerating materials of natural origin such as wood pulp that has been dissolved, purified, and extruded into a usable form.
For several decades, the production of regenerated cellulose fibers like viscose has been extensively done and is considered to be an ideal substitute for natural cellulose fiber like cotton. With the rapid change in fashion trends, the demand for viscose is increasing very fast as the brands and buyers are gradually moving towards apparel goods made of artificial fiber.
Textile Today: What product development are you pursuing?
Tapan Kumar: Our sister company Sateri in China, the world’s largest producer of viscose fiber, has successfully produced FINEXTM as its new product brand for recycled fiber. FINEXTM, short for ’Fiber Next’, is an innovative next-generation cellulosic fiber-containing recycled content. Since its announcement in March 2020 of a break-through in commercial production of viscose using recycled textile waste, Sateri has worked closely with its downstream yarn and garment manufacturing partners to bring the recycled fiber product to the consumer market.
Another development we are in is the expansion of our Lyocell production. Sateri’s first foray into China’s Lyocell market was in May 2020 with its 20,000-ton Lyocell production line in Rizhao, Shandong province. We are now planning to expand Lyocell production in China, with a total planned annual capacity of up to 500,000 tons by 2025. The first phase of this expansion kicked off recently with groundbreaking works for a new 100,000-ton facility in Changzhou, Jiangsu province. Another 100,000-ton facility will be built in Nantong, Jiangsu province later this year. The Changzhou Lyocell facility is expected to commence production in the third quarter of 2022.
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