By Liz White, UT staffMenlo Park, California-A report on polyurethane foams in the Chemical Economic Handbook, available from SRI Consulting, says for most regions, demand for flexible foams is expected to grow at an average annual rate of about 2-5 percent from 2004 to 2009. Demand for rigid foams will grow at a faster rate than demand for flexible foams, the report adds. Authors Henry Chinn, Uwe Löchner and Akihiro Kishi point out that regionally, polyurethane foam demand is relatively close to production because trade is comparatively small. Even within the US, they say, supply geographically follows demand very closely, especially for flexible products. About 60 percent of world consumption is for flexible foam.Many of the world's several thousand producers of PU foams have multiple plant locations, the report says. In recent years, the industry has been consolidated, mostly in the US and western Europe: currently "capacity for both flexible and rigid PU foams is adequate to meet demand," the authors say. Automotive seating is one area of globalisation, with major players operating in several regions of the world. Global producers (including alliances) of flexible slabstock foams are also developing but to a lesser extent.The pie chart shows CEH's estimate of world consumption of polyurethane foams in 2004. Clockwise from the green segment: EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa); North America; China; Other Asia; South/Central America; Japan; Oceania. For more information on the $2800 report, see www.sriconsulting.com"