2023 FEIBP Congress Market Reports

The 63rd FEIBP Congress, held in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in September brought together experts from the brush industry to discuss and provide updates on market conditions around brushware materials. Here is a summary of the challenges and opportunities in the market that were presented by four industry leaders in Europe.

VEGETABLE FIBERS: Urte Rietdorf (Friedrich Platt GmbH)

Urte Rietdorf gave an overview of the worldwide resources and sourcing issues of the natural materials Tampico Fibre from Mexico, Bahia Piassava from palm trees in South America, Sherbro from palm trees in Sierra Leone in West Africa, Palmyra from India, Coconut Fibre from Sri Lanka and Arenga from Indonesia. For all products, she reported a high standard of quality. However, if the products from the countries of origin are available at all, quantities are scarce and prices are rising. Producers are doing their best to keep prices stable until the end of 2023.

Sourced from Mexico, Tampico fiber prices are on a continuous upward trajectory, with no immediate prospects for a reversal in the near future. This ongoing price surge can be attributed to several factors, including the relentless increase in energy costs, rising ground transportation expenses, and escalating production costs. Additionally, the ongoing reevaluation of the Peso against the US Dollar further compounds these challenges. Importantly, most of these factors are beyond the control of the producers. The quality of Tampico fiber has also been impacted by the persistent drought in the harvest region, but dedicated producers are unwavering in their commitment to providing the highest possible quality. Availability has been hindered by the drought and a shortage of harvest labor, contributing to increased prices. It is anticipated that this situation will persist in the years to come.


The price outlook for Bahia Piassava sourced from South America is currently fraught with uncertainty, raising concerns about the survival of numerous small companies in the industry. Suppliers are making every effort to maintain the current price levels until the end of the year, although unexpected events may trigger price increases. As for quality, it varies across different regions and is heavily contingent on the expertise of the fabricators, necessitating a discerning eye to assess the fiber’s quality accurately. While there is an ample supply of raw fiber, the main challenge lies in the high domestic demand, with a significant portion of the fiber being consumed within the national market.

Furthermore, the younger generation’s waning interest in performing labor for the collection of Bahia Piassava is also a future concern.

Sherbro, sourced from Sierra Leone, is experiencing a persistent increase in prices, primarily driven by the repercussions of the Russian-Ukraine conflict and the escalating costs of gas and fuel. Fortunately, the quality of Sherbro remains consistently high, offering a reliable product standard. However, the fiber’s availability is currently constrained, with production operating at a notably low capacity due to limited demands and orders in the market.

Palmyra, sourced from India, has faced challenges primarily due to a decrease in demand during 2022 and 2023, especially from foreign markets like the U.S. This decline has significantly impacted prices, compelling sellers to provide high-quality materials at minimal profit margins. Despite these pricing pressures, the quality of Palmyra remains consistent, even though declining production volumes and high processing costs present challenges. Issues related to labor, including strenuous manual work and low wages, are pushing the younger generation toward alternative job opportunities. Furthermore, unpredictable climate conditions introduce an additional layer of uncertainty.
Dedicated producers are striving to secure high-quality materials from reliable suppliers and consistently implement stringent quality controls. Trustworthy regions and skilled workers are pivotal in this endeavor. Notwithstanding these challenges, suppliers are maintaining a stock of high-quality Palmyra to meet future orders.

The pandemic period had previously led to a dip in Palmyra supply, adversely affecting the industry. However, the current supply situation is deemed favorable, with ample availability projected for the current year. Encouragingly, the future outlook appears positive, driven by increasing awareness of the significance of natural materials and growing interest in the cultivation and processing of Palmyra Fiber due to its eco-friendly properties.

The price of coconut fiber sourced from Sri Lanka is subject to various factors, including global demand, weather conditions in the cultivation country, annual harvest yields, and high inflation resulting from the persisting economic crisis post the COVID-19 Pandemic. Notably, weather and harvest levels are not expected to vary significantly. In 2022, global demand for coconut fiber experienced a decline, but there is an anticipated slight increase in demand for the coming year due to a reduction in freighting costs. Sri Lanka’s high inflation rate in 2023, driven by prevailing economic conditions, may contribute to a potential price increase toward the end of 2023.

Quality is primarily influenced by weather and demand dynamics. When demand is high, producers tend to prioritize quantity over quality. The forecast for 2023 suggests a quality level similar to or even slightly better than that of 2022.

In terms of availability, the coconut harvests are expected to be similar to those of the previous year, indicating no material shortage. However, delivery times may be extended, as some millers have scaled back their production in response to reduced demand.

For Arenga sourced from Indonesia, various factors come into play regarding prices. A decrease in raw material quality and rising raw material costs have led to heightened production expenses, subsequently reducing production capacity. Furthermore, persistent high inflation has driven up domestic transport costs. There’s an additional layer of uncertainty associated with the cost compensation tied to the Rupiah/USD exchange rate, as the Indonesian Central Bank contemplates the potential appreciation of these currencies. Currently, the exchange rate appears to be improving, possibly opening the door to reestablishing a more cost-effective selling price. Producers are diligently working to maintain price stability until the end of 2023.

Quality for the arenga supply is strongly influenced by the interplay of human labor, raw materials and nature. The manual extraction processes yield diverse qualities, demanding a workforce with specialized knowledge and ongoing training. The meticulous assortment and classification carried out during quality control are crucial to meeting quality standards. While new raw material sources have been made accessible, the qualities from these areas are currently suboptimal. However, there is hope among selling companies that quality will improve as the trees continue to grow.

In terms of availability, the fundamental raw material situation remains favorable, but there is a reduction in the percentage of export-quality material. This is primarily due to the extended time required for sorting and processing to meet the stringent standards associated with export-quality products.

NATURAL BRISTLE: Reinhold Hörz (DKSH Zurich)

In his report, Reinhold Hörz says that during the recent CIBrush event in Shenzhen, his colleague, Wang Yong, who serves as our sourcing manager, observed a significant turnout of our suppliers. They were collectively grappling with the challenges posed by reduced business in 2023 compared to the previous year. While they had been actively seeking new business opportunities, they found the landscape to be quite challenging, with other business sectors also facing stagnation.

One notable point Yong made was that, despite the sluggish business climate, there was a sense of a slight recovery in demand. It appears that the paintbrush business was cautiously making a comeback.


In terms of China’s natural bristle supply situation, Yong indicated that due to the decrease in net sales in this field, our suppliers were expressing doubts about the continuity of semidressing, which is the initial step in bristle production. Some suppliers had even taken it upon themselves to perform semidressing within their factories. However, this practice was challenging for larger companies as they fell under the scrutiny of environmental authorities due to the inherently messy nature of semidressing. Smaller farmers who typically carry out this initial dressing step often operate under the environmental radar, unaware of the potential issues.

For raw material for white bristle, there is an abundance available, but approximately 80 percent originated from slaughterhouses, resulting in a lower quality characterized by a greyish-white color, short in length and soft quality. The price of this lower-quality raw hair is nearly negligible, plus minimal transportation costs. To enhance the quality, semidressers and suppliers need to blend this material with higher-priced raw hair from mountain sources.

As for prices, market expectations indicated that white 64mm and 70mm sizes would remain stable due to sufficient supply and limited demand. On the other hand, prices for other sizes were on the rise due to increased demand, particularly for smartphone polishing. Longer sizes of 76mm and above are becoming scarcer.

Regarding black bristles, there was limited information on the raw materials. Yong observed that the black bristle market is too small. The prices for black 44mm, 51mm and 57mm sizes were firming, while black 64mm, 70mm, 76mm and 83mm sizes maintained stability. This reflected the global demand, which predominantly is centered on black 44mm, 51mm and 57mm sizes for industrial rotating polishing brushes and larger sizes, such as 102mm and above, used in high-end, top-quality hairbrushes.
In terms of China’s economy, the country was experiencing deflation, in contrast to many Western nations grappling with inflation. This phenomenon was characterized by price weakening and stores offering rebates. Another concern was the real estate bubble, a significant issue in China. This has prompted us to focus not only on quality checks before shipment but also on the financial stability of our producers. The memory of the real estate crisis from 2005-2011, when we lost three suppliers, underscored the importance of safeguarding our prepayments.

Hörz offered his conclusion on the market, “I would rather cover my demand for the near future and buy now. The chance of falling prices in natural bristle is very minimal. Also, freight rates have bottomed out. Most shippers are taking out their vessels and putting them in a shipyard to reduce price pressure and reduce capacity. I rather feel a risk of increasing prices or even worse of missing raw material in some items.”

SYNTHETIC FILAMENTS: Andrew McIlroy (Perlon)

In his report, Andrew McIlroy highlighted significant price fluctuations in the industry. Certain raw materials have experienced a decrease in prices, largely due to shifts in demand, even though these changes aren’t necessarily justifiable from a cost perspective. However, it’s important to note that high energy costs continue to impact the market.


Specifically for raw materials related to the production of synthetic filaments, PP and LDPE prices have been affected by a lack of demand, with PP reaching its peak pricing in mid-2022 and experiencing a C3 increase in September 2023. Meanwhile, the demand for PE remains very low, resulting in a reduction in production volumes and a C2 (Ethylene) increase in September 2023.

Additionally, PBT faces low demand and competition from cheap imports from Asia, while PET saw a slight increase in costs in September.

The PA 6 market is marked by very weak demand and competition from affordable Asian imports. PA 66 is facing limited availability and weak demand, partly due to increased substitution by PA 6.

Finally, PA 610 (base materials: Sebacic Acid, HMD) and PA 612 (base materials: Butadiene, HMD) are experiencing weak demand but are relatively less volatile compared to other polymer types.

FINE HAIR: Mark Samuel (Mark Samuel Trading Co. Ltd)

Mark Samuel, the world’s preeminent specialist in fine hair, reported continued reduced offers for natural hair in the high-quality range and growing sourcing shortages.

A Look Back: From Soaring Heights to Realistic Grounds

Just last year, our reports indicated a small decrease in prices for fine hair, particularly weasel and kolinsky. This adjustment followed three years of staggering price increases. The reality that high prices could not be sustained indefinitely became evident. After all, not many artists, regardless of their passion for their craft, would be willing to invest a hefty $300 in an artist brush.


In response, alternative materials made their way into most high-end artist brushes, gradually replacing sable hair. However, an enduring demand for these fine hairs still exists, particularly in the creation of specialist brushes, like dental ceramic brushes. These specialty tools require specific characteristics that synthetic alternatives do not quite replicate, making fine hair an irreplaceable choice in such cases.

The 2023 Perspective: A Deeper Decline, Yet Historically High Prices

As anticipated, the modest decline in prices observed last year has evolved into a more substantial decrease in 2023. However, it’s worth noting that the fall in prices, although noteworthy, has not been as dramatic as the prior increases. Prices have now circled back to levels reminiscent of 2021, even with a 40 percent decrease. From a historical perspective, we are still navigating high price levels.

The question that lingers is whether these prices will continue to decrease. Demand in the market is weak but has not declined further. Yet, the critical factor preventing more substantial price reductions is the supply side of the equation, mainly from China and Russia. This unique confluence arises from reduced demand for animal skins in the fur industry and intensified government oversight on the unregulated trade in wild animals. As a result, sources of raw materials have dwindled significantly.

Squirrel Hair Stability Amidst Weakening Demand

While the overall demand for squirrel hair has weakened, prices have remained stable. This particular segment benefits from a sufficient supply, even though challenges persist in obtaining material from Russia, a primary source. Importation is relatively unimpeded as there are no sanctions on hair (unlike synthetics), but the payment system faces restrictions. As a result, a substantial portion of squirrel hair now originates from China or arrives via Russian channels through China.

Badger Hair Prices Fall, Others Stand Firm

In contrast to the falling prices of badger hair, other fine hairs like goat, pony and ox have maintained their price levels. This divergence is due to the growing scarcity in supply, as many factories have ceased production in this category.

For more information on the European Brush Federation, visit www.eurobrush.com.