China slashes chromite imports by one-third in April

By Davide Ghilotti
Published: Friday, 07 July 2017

Latest statistics point to a rapid worsening of demand for chromite in China which, against a record month for imports in January, has now halved its monthly imports.

Chinese imports of chromite recorded an abrupt slowdown in April, when shipments of the material entering the country fell by almost one-third on slow buying patterns.
China Customs data released in June shows total chromite imports (across all grades, including metallurgical and non-met) stood at a mere 724,412 tonnes in April, marking a 28% drop against the previous month, when just over 1.01m tonnes were shipped.

Compared with January, when chromite trade into China stood at a record-high 1.53m tonnes, the April trade has halved, with a decline of 53%.

The downtrend in imports confirms the widespread scenario of slow demand on the part of Chinese importers IM has been reporting since the start of this year.

South African sellers tried, at first, to uphold the higher price levels they had managed to secure in 2016, but persistent lack of demand forced prices of metallurgical and chemical grade material to steer downwards.Following a rapid appreciation of chemical chromite prices, which reached a five-year high in December last year, the early months of 2017 were characterised by an evident slowdown in enquiries reaching suppliers and in trade flows.

Industrial Minerals’  chemical chromite, 46% Cr2O3, wet bulk price fell by as much as $150-170/tonne at the start of May to $240-280/tonne FOB South Africa.

Chinese statistics appear to confirm the decline in demand: following the January peak, imports have steadily decreased in each of the subsequent months until now.

Imports value has declined in conjunction with the reduced volumes. Total imports value in April, at $247.92m, was 28% down on March, and 45% down against January.

On a year-on-year basis, every month of 2017 to date shows an increase in both volume and value terms, compared with the weak market conditions the industry was facing at the same time last year.