Chromite imports to China peak in January

By Davide Ghilotti
Published: Friday, 07 April 2017

Statistics from Chinese customs officials show a rapid uptrend in volume and value of chromite materials entering China since the second half of last year, with a peak this January.

Deliveries of chromite to China started 2017 on a high against the early months of last year although month-on-month shipments showed a dip in February on the back of slow Q1 trading activity.

Imports of chromite as a whole, including metallurgical non-metallurgical chrome materials, showed a steady growth pattern throughout the second half of 2016, according to China Customs data.

Deliveries peaked in January this year at 1.53m tonnes, generating a value of $446.67m. The month marked a two-year high for Chinese chromite demand, according to data available to IM. In volume terms, the January trade was 64% above the same time last year, while in value terms the year-on-year (y-o-y) growth stood at 237%.

The pattern confirms the rapid appreciation in chromite demand and prices noted by IM in recent months, which took both met and non-met grades alike to stellar highs in H2 2016.

In the case of chemical and foundry grade chromite, market benchmarks hit a five-year high last December.

January deliveries – a significant amount of which would have been contracted the previous month – shows further evidence to the strong uptrend the market saw at the time. Additionally, these confirm what sources told IM towards the end of last year, pointing to strong buying activity right up to Christmas time as Chinese customers were keen to receive their cargo before the Chinese New Year holiday period, which started earlier than usual at the end of January and, during which, operations in the country were shut for two-three weeks.

Chromite imports GRAPH.JPG (44.3 KB)  

In volume terms, Chinese imports rose from close to 895,000 tonnes last August to over 1m tonnes in November, then remained steadily above the 1m tonne per month (tpm) mark in the following months.

The average unit value of imports – again, these include all chromite product types, met and non-met, traded into China under HS code 2610 – for the past months shows an evident upward trend that, from May to December, took the rate up by 103%.

As demand continued to increase, so did the overall value of imported volumes, which rose from $122.24m last June to $292.12m in December, and peaked in January at $446.67m.

February data showed consistency with the previous months on a y-o-y basis while it posted a decline sequentially.

With 1.29m tonnes chromite imported in the month, valued at $425.54m, February levels were double those at the same time in 2016 (+114% and +445% in volume and value respectively).

At the same time, volumes entering China in February were 16% lower than January import volumes, while value decreased 5% m-o-m. This corresponds to the slow contracting activity that market participants have reported to IM since the beginning of the year, and which protracted into March.

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