Brazilian ATH exports surge in 2016

By Davide Ghilotti
Published: Thursday, 23 February 2017

ATH exports to US up over 200%; Lower US capacity key factor; Japan, Argentina also raise demand

Brazilian exports of alumina trihydrate (ATH) increased by almost 50% throughout 2016 as demand surged in leading destinations including the US and Japan, trade data shows.

Total exports of ATH from Brazil reached 737,179 tonnes in 2016, according to customs data, marking a 47% hike in volume year-on-year (y-o-y).

Compared with 2014 (452,022 tonnes), the increase was a higher 63%.

The strong performance was supported by a surge in demand seen in the two largest importing markets, Japan and the US.

Exports to Japan, which had exceeded the 400,000-tonne mark in 2015, rose a further 10% to 442,670 tonnes last year, reaching a value of $68m in the period.

For its part, deliveries to the US went from 65,890 tonnes in 2015 to over 241,000 tonnes last year – a surge of 267%.

In value terms, ATH exports to US customers totalled $37.1m against $11.1m in the previous year, equivalent to a 234% increase y-o-y.

Brazilian ATH exports (tonnes, $) 
News 8  
Source: Industrial Minerals, Brazilian Customs 

The uptrend in demand from the US is thought to have been affected by the closure of two major alumina refineries, Alcoa Inc.’s Point Comfort plant and Sherwin Alumina Co.’s plant, both in Texas.

More broadly, regulatory frameworks on flame retardants – one of the main applications of ATH – are being updated to phase out the use of halogenated, bromine-based flame retardants, which pose health hazards, in favour of halogen-free materials, such as ATH.

The latest data confirms what IM has been told by ATH market participants, who pointed to higher supply of Brazilian material reaching US customers.

As a consequences, sources spoke of a general situation of price weakness due to steady availability of material despite the reduction in capacity.

Although suppliers of cables and wires are moving away from bromine towards ATH and other halogen-free materials, the market remains well covered, preventing any growth in demand from boosting market prices.

A European-based ATH producer told IM: "Cable and wire customers are not willing to pay any more [than they do at the moment]. Nobody is ready to pay more.

"Some were saying there would be an increase of 10-12% after the closures in the US, but it hasn’t happened yet."