Editor's Note: IMPI Fellow Dr. John Osepchuk has written an important
revision to his previous article on microwave oven sales around the world.
“Microwave Ovens: An Overview: 2013"
In February, 2013, I wrote the cited “Overview” largely based on tabulated data on the top ten exporters and top ten importers of microwave ovens in the world. The “source” of these data was the U. N. Comtrade database as interpreted by the publication, World Trade Daily. The tabulated data were in terms of financial value, only. Since then we were able to make our own review of the Comtrade data base and we found data on number of ovens shipped. These new data and our review alters the conclusions of the “Overview” dramatically. There are many more ovens manufactured than previously estimated and almost all manufactured in the Far East.
In the “Overview” we cited the financial data (for only 2009) from the World Trade Daily which showed that ~80% of microwave ovens were exported from the Far East (China, Malaysia and Thailand) with, surprisingly, 16% still exported from Europe. Japan and the U.S. represented negligible exports. It was assumed that exports implied “manufacture” and that commercial and industrial microwave ovens were not included in the data and even if they were they would be almost a negligible source of error. In the absence of actual number of shipments we used the import data for the U.S and the AHAM data on shipments for 2009 to compute an estimate of average “price” (wholesale plus shipping) and to estimate total numbers of ovens exported and imported. In this way we estimated that the total world production of ovens in 2009 was about 40 million and it appeared that roughly 1/5 were still being manufactured in the West—i.e. Europe. For the U.S. we know the total annual sales are greater than the AHAM number of 9 – 10 million because of imports outside of the AHAM membership. Because the FDA declined to provide us with their data on imports we didn’t know the exact number of sales above the AHAM number.
In the last two months, however, we were able to access, ourselves, the Comtrade database. (Just Google “U. N. Comtrade”). There we found data on actual numbers of ovens exported or imported along with financial data and weights of shipments. We also found out that there are some flaws and uncertainties in the Comtrade system. Nevertheless, we were able to deduce some startling conclusions. In the meantime through IMPI, inquiries to Europe cast doubt on the actual numbers of ovens manufactured in Europe. This apparently reflects the fact that the export/import data includes to some extent “re-exports” so that “exports” is not synonymous with “manufacture”
An important finding was quickly made. The Comtrade data show that roughly 14.5 million ovens were imported into the U. S. annually in recent years vs. the AHAM data on “shipments” of roughly 9 – 10 million ovens per year. Thus we have learned what the FDA refused to tell us: that 1/3 or more of the annual sales of microwave ovens in the U.S. are not included in the AHAM data and represent imports directly to retailers like Walmart and Target etc.
Then we found that annual exports from China have risen to about 56 million ovens with about 6 million from Malaysia, 4 million from Thailand and 1 million from South Korea. This already totals about 67 million to which we reasonably can add 3-4 million for consumption of ovens in these countries. Thus a minimum estimate of world production of ovens is 70 million, far more that the estimate of 40 million in the “Overview”. The number of ovens exported from Europe, per the Comtrade data base, is in the range of 3- 5 million, percentage-wise far less than the estimated 16% based on financial data—which might hint at the inclusions of commercial and industrial ovens.
Inquiries through IMPI to Europe provided us with few reports of thriving oven manufacture and skepticism about the accuracy of the Comtrade data. One contribution to the confusion may be the existence of re-exporting of some imports etc.
In summary, we conclude that a minimum estimate of the total annual manufacture of microwave ovens in the world is 70 million with some possibility that it is as high as 75 million. This is almost twice the previous estimate of 40 million ovens per year This suggests that the total population, worldwide, of operating microwave ovens is of the order of 1 billion. This is an astounding number and may be the basis for some new views on the implications of this number—for example the worldwide potential of RFI, real or suspected, from microwave ovens.
Just as astounding is the fact that almost all of the consumer microwave ovens in the world are now manufactured in the Far East , especially China. Along with this is the manufacture of the magnetrons for microwave ovens—all in the Far East even though some of this is outsourcing from manufacturers in Japan and Korea. The fact of the matter is that manufacture of microwave ovens and cooker magnetrons is now focused in the Far East and not the West. We expect, therefore that R&D on these products will be focused in the Far East as well.
IMPI is an international organization and represents the key forum for covering the field of microwave ovens. It is now important to increase the participation of members from the Far East so that all can monitor future developments—which are bound to occur.
John M. Osepchuk, Ph. D.
Full Spectrum Consulting
Concord, MA 01742
April 23, 2013