Brazilian exports of alumina trihydrate (ATH) to the US
increased almost 150% in the early months of 2017 against
year-ago levels, confirming the surge in US demand from the
Latin American producer that was first seen after the closure
of domestic producers.
The US overtook Japan as the top export destination for
Brazilian ATH, importing a total 131,436 tonnes of material
between January and April – an increase of 146%
year-on-year (y-o-y), according to Brazil’s
The increase in shipments to the North American market in
early 2017 confirms the uptrend that was first reported by IM
during 2016, when
exports rose over 200%.
January-April exports recorded a turnover of $19.7m
– an increase of more than two-fold on the same period
in 2016 ($8.4m).
Domestic US supply was affected by last year’s
closure of two major alumina refineries, Alcoa
Inc.’s Point Comfort plant and Sherwin Alumina
Co.’s plant, both in Texas.
Brazilian exporters saw the gap in the market that the
closures would create and sought to increase their presence in
the destination as a result.
Sources active in ATH had told IM that
Brazil had been "seeking to up its market share of US ATH
supply after Alcoa and Sherwin closed, and has been very
focused on this".
Delegates attending the IM Bauxite & Alumina conference
in March this year said that "everyone" was expecting an
increase in ATH prices following the closure of the facilities.
The two sites had a combined total capacity of 3.9m tonnes
alumina products, although had been running lower throughputs
for some time before finally closing.
However, ATH prices remained
stable on their existing levels. According to market
participants, this was down to a combination of weak demand
from the downstream market, high leftover stocks following the
closures, and a surge in supply from Brazil that avoided a
potential shortage of material available.
What did take place was a change in the composition of total
US ATH supply, with Brazil increasing its total share of the
market, while upholding prices.
Japan and other markets
Japan, the now second-largest importer of Brazilian ATH, saw
its imports in January-April reduced to 115,897 tonnes (-25%).
This led to a 31% decrease in exports value, to $16.8m.
Meanwhile, Brazil increased its shipments to a number of
destinations in Latin America, including Mexico (10,888
tonnes), Argentina (6,408 tonnes), Colombia (2,511 tonnes),
Uruguay, Chile, Peru and Paraguay.
In Asia, exports to South Korea fell in the four-month
period (-9%, 1,900 tonnes) but those to China rose 81% to 2,310
tonnes. This may be related to ATH production issues within
China, on the back of the widespread environmental controls
currently affecting a number of industries across the
A European buyer of ATH told IM this week
that Chinese production has been hit by the shutdowns, and that
domestic ATH prices were on the up as a result.