Chemicals business: weak start in 2023




Chemicals business: weak start in 2023


16 May 2023 | Pressemitteilung


The rapid downturn in the German chemical industry slowed in the first quarter 2023.

Electricity and gas are still significantly more expensive than before the crisis and are not competitive by international standards. © Africa Studio/
Electricity and gas are still significantly more expensive than before the crisis and are not competitive by international standards. © Africa Studio/

However, a strong recovery is not in sight. Production in Germany’s third largest industry dropped slightly. Sales also fell in almost all sectors. Persistently high production costs were a strain on business.

The look ahead remains worrying: Electricity and gas are still much more expensive than before the crisis and not competitive in an international comparison. In fact, supply shortages are gradually being resolved in the industry so that full order books can be worked off. But new business is subdued and the demand for chemical products remains weak.

VCI President Markus Steilemann says about the industry’s business situation: “The full extent of the energy crisis is becoming increasingly visible. Even though the energy and raw materials bills for many chemical and pharmaceutical companies were lower in Q1 than three months earlier, the costs are still twice as high as in the previous years. Germany as an industry location is becoming less and less competitive internationally. For the energy-intensive chemical industry, there is a great danger of ever more investments and jobs being moved abroad. It is positive that meanwhile the politicians have recognised the seriousness of the situation too. But now action must follow – and this must happen fast, without much bureaucracy and in a targeted manner, for example, through an industrial electricity price as a bridge to the future and to secure Germany as an industry location.”


Due to the generally weak demand, production again fell short of the previous quarter (-0.9 percent). At 78.6 percent, the capacity utilisation of plants remained below normal.

Producer prices

With a rise by 0.5 percent, producer prices were once more somewhat higher than in the previous quarter, while the strong price increase of the previous year became less vigorous. Compared with Q1 2022, chemical and pharmaceutical products were only 10.8 percent more costly.


Weak demand from industrial customers brought another fall in sales. At 58.5 billion euros, the industry’s sales were 6.7 percent lower than three months earlier and, for the first time in two years, below the previous year’s level.


The number of jobs was stable in Q1 2023. At present, chemical and pharmaceutical companies have around 477,000 staff.


In view of the persistently difficult situation for the industry, the VCI continues to assume a drop in production by 5 percent for 2023 as a whole. For chemical production (excluding pharmaceuticals), the association expects a decline by 8 percent.

The VCI and its sector associations represent the interests of around 1,900 companies from the chemical-pharmaceutical industry and related sectors vis-à-vis politicians, public authorities, other industries, science and media. In 2022, the VCI member companies realised sales of ca. 260 billion euros and employed nearly 550,000 staff.

Contact: VCI Press Department, phone: +49 69 2556-1496, e-mail:
VCI on X


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 Josefin Altrichter

Contact person

Josefin Altrichter

Pressesprecherin Chemikalienstrategie, Wirtschaft, Digitalisierung