China tin trade subdued in January
Latest official customs statistics released by China last week showed that the country's tin ore and concentrate imports from Myanmar fell by 57% year-on-year to 31,359 tonnes (gross weight) in January, predominantly due an earlier Chinese Spring Festival holiday period than in recent years. Refined tin imports also fell 34% over the same period to 643 tonnes.
Myanmar was the source of over 99% of China's tin ore and concentrate imports in January, which totalled 31,651 tonnes. The presence of high-grade ore in shipments has reportedly been sparse and we have lowered our estimate of average tin content of total imports from Wa County in Myanmar to 15% Sn accordingly with an estimate that the average tin content of these imports was 4,700t in the first month of the year.
According to the report, China did not export refined tin or alloys during January. This is despite the scrapping of the country's 10% duty on exports of refined tin for 2017, which was confirmed in mid-January. The high Chinese domestic tin price (+VAT) relative to the LME and the delayed reaction of Chinese companies to this rule change are both understood to be reasons for the lack of exports reported.
ITRI View: The Chinese Spring Festival occurred earlier than normal this year, with most mining companies taking holidays from 23rd January. In addition, shipments in January 2016 from Wa County were boosted by significant destocking by the local government. We anticipate higher reported exports to China in February than in recent years, as the usual impact of the holiday period has been shared with January, although the tonnage is still expected to be lower than in recent months. An underlying decline in mine production in Wa should also put pressure on tin ore imports during 2017.