Chinese graphite exports fall in September

By Davide Ghilotti
Published: Friday, 17 November 2017

Shipments were still higher year-on-year but were down compared with the summer months, when lower production because of strict environmental inspections started to affect traded volumes.

Chinese export volumes of natural flake graphite increased by 5% in September year-on-year, although they fell compared with the May-August period, according to the latest data from Chinese customs.

Flake graphite shipments for September totaled 10,598 tonnes, about 600 tonnes more than in the corresponding month of 2016. In value terms, turnover rose by 2.2% year-on-year to $7.06 million.

The statistics confirm a continuation of the growth in trade to international customers from China, the single largest producer of the mineral, which has persisted through most of 2017.

But at the same time, the September figures also point to a slowdown in shipments compared with earlier months. August saw 14,666 tonnes exported (28% higher), while in May it was as much as 15,641 tonnes – 48% more than in September in volume terms.

The figures for June and July were also consistently above those for September in traded shipments.

The pattern may be related to a situation of reduced availability of material produced during the summer months, following a tightening of the environmental inspections in graphite-producing provinces in China, such as Shandong.

Exports had increased in the early months of this year as a result of the scrapping of the duty regime on sales of natural flake and amorphous graphite, which the Beijing government discontinued from January 1.

Exports were subject to a 20% duty rate under the previous regime. After the levy was canceled, Chinese sellers reduced their prices, triggering a rebound in demand.

As the environmental controls intensified in the subsequent months - from June onward - local production facilities could not operate at full capacity. In the summer months, operations were intermittent at best, fully shut at worst.

As stocks were being cleared, declining availability triggered a rise in prices for some graphite grades.

Lower availability may start to be reflected in the latest trade data.

In terms of average unit price, the September volumes marked a five-month high at $666 per tonne. This compares with an average export price of $591 per tonne in August, and $643 per tonne in July.

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