BEIJING (Scrap Monster): The latest trade data from Chinese General Administration of Customs shows that the country’s iron ore imports hit all-time record high during the calendar year 2016. The net imports during the year surpassed 1 billion tonnes. However, the imports declined sharply during the last month of the year.
According to customs statistics, China imported 1.024 billion tonnes of steelmaking raw material during the year, significantly higher by 7.5% from a year before. The Chinese iron ore imports had totaled around 952 million tonnes in 2015. The shipments from Australia and Brazil increased significantly during the year. The rise in imports is mainly attributed to the unexpected rise in steel production by the country couple with lower domestic mine output. The spurt in imports was supported by strong rebound in iron ore prices. Incidentally, iron ore prices surged higher by more than 80% last year, thereby putting an end to three consecutive years of price decline.
However, inward shipments during Dec ’16 alone were down marginally by over 3%. The imports during the month totaled 88.95 million tonnes, when compared with imports of 91.90 million tonnes in November. Also, the imports were down significantly from Dec ’15 imports of 96.26 million tonnes. The drop in imports is primarily due to slowdown in steel demand during cold winter month, customs authorities noted.
The country’s iron ore imports had totaled 91.978 million tonnes during the month, higher by 12.0% when matched with the imports during the corresponding month in 2015. Also, the total value of imports by the country had increased sharply by nearly 17.4% over the year to $5.527 billion in November 2016. The largest exporter of iron ore to China during the month was Australia. The imports from Australia totaled 56.395 million tonnes, valued at $3.333 billion. Brazil exported 21.535 million tonnes of iron ore to China during the month. In third place was South Africa with 4.075 million tonnes. The other key exporters of iron ore to China were India (1.585 million tonnes), Iran (1.328 million tonnes) and Chile (1.202 million tonnes).
China imported 80.799 million tonnes during the month, modestly higher by 7% when compared with the imports during October 2015. The iron ore imports during the month were valued at $4.899 billion during the month. The value of imports edged higher by 11% over the previous year. Australia was the top exporter of iron ore to China during the month. The imports from Australia totaled 49.886 million tonnes, valued at $2.98 billion. In second place was Brazil with total exports of 17.881 million tonnes of iron ore to China during the month. The imports from South Korea totaled 3.379 million tonnes.
Going forward, the iron ore demand is likely to increase at similar levels. Early indicators suggest that the country’s iron ore imports grew to 92 million metric tonnes in January 2017, registering 3.2% month-on-month increase. The imports in January recorded nearly 12% gain year-on-year. The various stimulus measures undertaken by Chinese administration is likely to boost steel demand in the country. Also, the government move to shut down steel making facilities that use scrap as raw material may further boost Chinese iron ore demand.