Chinese imports of fluorspar trebled year-on-year in 2018 as
the nation became a net importer of the material, according to
the latest data from the country’s customs
The data showed that 419,828 tonnes of fluorspar was
imported into China during 2018, three times the 140,229 tonnes
imported in 2017.
Fluorspar exports from China grew to 202,000 tonnes in 2018,
from 184,000 tonnes the year before.
Because of the Chinese boom in steel production over 2018,
the majority of this growth in fluorspar imports was likely to
be metallurgical grade material, although the Customs data does
not distinguish between acid and met grades.
Fluorspar is used as a flux material in steel
Exports were steady throughout 2018, peaking at 23,940
tonnes in January. The 12,315 tonnes shipped in March was the
lowest single monthly value.
Imports peaked at the end of the year, when 225,000 tonnes
of fluorspar, 54% of the year’s total, was brought
into China between September and December.
China’s crude steel output grew by 4.6% over
the year, according to its National Bureau of Statistics.
This means that Chinese steel producers would have produced
an additional 41 million tonnes of steel in 2018 compared with
the previous year. The total for 2018 was 894,000 tonnes.
China accounts for roughly half the world’s
output of crude steel but its growth in output will fall
significantly in 2019, according to forecasts by Fastmarkets
research. China’s output of crude steel will grow
by 0.8% this year, according to the research, adding around 7
million tonnes to the nation’s total.
This could raise questions over whether China has
permanently become a net importer of fluorspar.
The increased output of steel was reflected in metspar
The weekly price assessment for metspar, 90% CaF2, fob China, was $430-460
per tonne on March 7. It was $390-410 per tonne one year
The price for metspar, 85% CaF2, fob China, was $360-400
per tonne, also assessed on March 7.
The price for 85% CaF2 material was narrowly lower one year
ago at $350-370 per tonne, but it was $290-310 per tonne in
The last time both prices were as high as their current
levels was in 2012.
2019 imports to dip
Fastmarkets is aware of one fluorspar trading house which
reported that it had imported around 100,000 tonnes of
acid-grade fluorspar in 2018. But that trader’s
outlook for 2019 was bleaker because international prices of
acidspar had caught up with the high Chinese prices.
The monthly price for acidspar, 97% CaF2, wet filtercake, fob Durban,
South Africa, was $450-490 per tonne on February 28.
This was up by 25% from $350-400 per tonne this time last
By comparison, Chinese fluorspar averaged a price of
$460-527 per tonne over 2018.
The price for acidspar, 97% CaF2, wet filtercake, fob
China, was $450-550 per tonne on March 7. The price started
the year at $550-580 per tonne.
There was no official data detailing how much aluminium
fluoride (AlF3) or hydrofluoric acid (HF) is produced in China.
But data presented at Fastmarkets’
latest fluorspar conference - in Johannesburg, South
Africa, over September 25-27, 2018 - showed that there was
plenty of unused AlF3 capacity in China.
Only 72.5% of China’s capacity for 943,000
tonnes per year was being used.
Weaker demand for AlF3 has caused the price to drop, to
around 11,000-11,500 yuan ($1,638-1,712) per tonne, according
to sources. This price dropped by 5% in January.
The HF price also recently dropped, to 10,775 yuan per tonne
on March 13 from around 14,500 yuan per tonne on December 12,
according to commodity data group Sunsirs.
Again, this price was down because of lower demand for
refrigerants in China, although demand is down at the moment
because it is winter in China.