South African chromite sales rebound in May

By Davide Ghilotti
Published: Monday, 02 October 2017

An increase in monthly exports as well as domestic sales took the country’s chromite sales upwards again. Separately, Chinese chromite imports increased in July.

Sales of South African high-purity chromite rebounded in May after several months of constant decline, on the back of improvement in both exports and domestic trade, latest data provided to IM shows.

Total sales of chromite with 44-48% Cr2O3 content from South Africa – the largest global producer – had been gradually declining after a peak reached in August last year, but appear to have now bottomed out, according to figures from the South African Department of Mineral Resources.

Exports rose to almost 90,000 tonnes in May, marking a 17% increase on the previous month, when foreign trade was below 77,000 tonnes. In March, exports had fallen below 54,000 tonnes.

Domestic sales also improved month-on-month, surging from a mere 17,414 tonnes in March to over 62,500 tonnes in May – a 259% growth.

The uptrend in trade brought total sales for the month, including exports and domestic, to 152,443 tonnes. The figure marks a new high since August 2016.

Total sales value in May, including domestic market and exports, stood at South African rand (Zar) 385.4m ($30.1m).

While volumes were on the up, it is worth noting that the monthly turnover is actually 10% down against April, when Zar 430.68m worth of material was sold.

This may be related to a sharp fall in chemical chromite prices in mid-April, when the commodity lost over $150/tonne against earlier levels. Metallurgical chrome ore prices also fell around that time, thus leading to lower export revenues in May.


Chinese chromite imports

Separately, imports of chromite products into China (including all purity levels and grades, met and non-met material alike) stood at 967,877 tonnes in July, for a value of $166.31m, according to China Customs.

The July figure is 5% down on the same period last year, while value is 14% higher.

Compared with June, the value of imports declined 18%: the average unit value went from $239/tonne to $171/tonne in July.

This is thought to be related to a price decline that affected both metallurgical UG2 and chemical grade prices in the period.