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Markets // Market Analysis

China tin concentrate imports see large May increase

Thursday, 06 July 2017

Chinese tin ore and concentrate imports in May totalled 34,077 tonnes in gross weight, up 49% compared to April, but down 16% year-on-year according to the latest official data.

Nearly 99% of the reported imports in May were from Myanmar, with tin contained in the imported concentrate estimated to be more than 7,000t, up by 33% compared to April and up 70% from the last year. The grade of tin concentrate from Myanmar is generally higher than in 2016 because of improvements in local processing plant technology. In addition, most ore in Myanmar is now low grade and has to be processed before export to China.

The concentrate imports in the first five months of the year totalled 117,574t in gross weight, down by 45% compared to the same period of 2016. Tin content is estimated to be around 25,000t, down by 8%.

China imported 234 tonnes refined tin in May, down 73% YoY but up 28% MoM. The refined tin exports were 218 tonnes in May, up 58% YoY, with 198 tonnes to Hong Kong and 20 tonnes delivered to Japan. It was estimated around 2,000 tonnes of tin in the form of tin products was exported to the international market from China in May because the LME price was higher relative to the China price during the period.

ITRI View: Although the ore production in Myanmar has been in decline since the second half of last year, there is still significant ore stock that could be processed. So it is difficult to anticipate a significant drop in concentrate shipments in the short-term. The total production capacity of Chinese smelters increased significantly this year, primarily as some facilities came back online after relocation, meaning the market for raw material is very competitive. We believe that the production of refined tin in China was higher in the first half of this year compared with the same period of 2016, while both visible and non-visible stocks remain high.

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