Mexico graphite export data to US misleading

By Andrew Miller
Published: Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Natural graphite export data shows Mexico has overtaken China as leading source for US; IM Data challenges these claims

Trade data shows that the US imported more graphite from Mexico than anywhere else in the world in 2012.

As with a range of international statistics, these figures are hard to believe.

When you consider that Mexico is only thought to have produced around 8,000 tonnes of amorphous graphite last year, it would have done well to be the primary supplier to the world’s biggest economy.

Trade statistics show that Mexico exported 19,730 tonnes of natural graphite in 2012, 1,100 tonnes more than China.

Clearly the nature of international data collection leaves margin for misinterpretation and error, which begs the question of how far businesses can depend on the accuracy of these statistics.

Throughout last year, the average value of natural graphite exports from China was $1,116/tonne. Depending on the grade in question however, this could have been anywhere from over double, to in excess of 40% lower than the actual market value.
 
Lost in the wider statistics are the specifics which drive graphite prices – carbon purity, mesh size, type and impurities. Just as it can be costly to production if these specifications are miscalculated, so too can it be financially costly to be misinformed.
 
Public data hides detail of a complex, private market 

Although public statistics can serve as useful indicators, they are unable to fully explain the complexities of a specialist industry such as graphite.
 
Furthermore, in global markets trade data can often give a misleading representation of where deals are taking place - the Netherlands for instance is listed as the 8th largest exporter and 10th largest importer of graphite in 2012 due to Rotterdam being a central port into Europe.

Mexico accounted for only 2.4% of global amorphous graphite output last year, just over 1% of total natural graphite production. Trade statistics show 19,370 tonnes of natural graphite being exported from Mexico to the US in 2012, over half of which is thought to be anthracite or another forms of mislabelled carbon.
 
Similar misreporting has been identified by IM Data in North Korea. Exports from the country are recorded as exceeding 54,000 tonnes in 2012 and almost 130,000 tonnes in 2011, yet graphite production capacity is actually thought to be less that 2,000 tonnes.

Industrial Minerals Data collects its own data including prices for the natural graphite industry. Data and analysis for the graphite market is available at www.indmin.com/GraphiteAnalysis.
 
Industrial Minerals has also published the Natural Graphite Report 2012-2016.



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