Seasonal trade: Fireworks

Fri 3 Nov 2023
Posted by: Benjamin Roche
Trade News

Fireworks show

Remember, it’s the 5th of November this Sunday and it’s likely to be as explosive an occasion as usual, thanks to a good whose trade rarely takes the spotlight — fireworks.

Today (3 November), the IOE&IT Daily Update is taking a look at some of the stats and stories.

The numbers

The global trade in fireworks is worth a total of US $1.03bn, with the vast proportion of that number produced by Chinese firms, according to 2021 stats from the Observatory of Economic Complexity.

China, the country that invented fireworks, exported $878m of them in 2021, distantly followed by the Netherlands, exporting $25.9m, Germany on $22.2m, Poland on $14.4m and the US on $13.5m.

The US has a taste for the pyrotechnic — it is by far the world’s largest importer of fireworks, bringing in $803m of them in 2022 according to the UN Comtrade Database, via Statista. Following the US was Spain as the world’s second-biggest importer.

Much of the firework trade from China into the US is headed by one man, Ding Yan Zhong or ‘Mr Ding’, whose companies are responsible for 70% of all fireworks entering the US market.

The UK

In the UK, fireworks are required to have a safety mark in order to be sold.

Those who manufacture, import or distribute fireworks are required by law to keep a record for 10 years of the registration numbers of their fireworks, who they have been sold to and from where they have been supplied.

Importers also have to demonstrate at points of entry that fireworks are bound for safe storage facilities in accordance with the Explosives Regulations 2014.

The categories

Fireworks sold in the UK market need to be categorised into one of four categories. F1 fireworks are the safest and considered appropriate for indoor use, while F2 and F3 may be sold to the public but must be used outdoors. F4 fireworks are the most powerful, and can only legally be sold to professionals.

Only licensed traders can sell fireworks most of the year, but unlicensed traders can sell them in the UK during the periods around Chinese New Year, Diwali, Bonfire Night and New Year.

However, the explosive growth of fireworks seen over the last two decades, particularly in the US, has begun to be challenged by alternative light displays from drones.

Drone takeover

Events company DRPG recently announced a move away from fireworks towards using drones as they “can be programmed for more than one event, saving loads on resources” and ultimately proving more “affordable”.

The announcement also cited environmental benefits to slowing the use of fireworks, which it is argued contain contaminants that affect air quality in areas where displays are carried out. The noise can also be disruptive to animals.

The US market is also seeing a growth in drone displays replacing fireworks, reports NBC, particularly in response to dry conditions and wildfires in some states.

Fireworks did have a particularly strong showing in British Columbia in Canada this week, however, as the BBC today notes how a lorry full of fireworks collided with a pickup truck to accidentally spark an hour-long display off the motorway. The boom isn’t over just yet.