SHANGHAI, Mar. 2 -- According to data from the General Administration of Customs, China's imports of nickel ore were 16.56 million mt in 2009, up 34% YoY, the highest level since 2005.
China's total imports of nickel ore were 12.34 million mt in 2008, including 7.40 million mt from Indonesia, 4.01million mt from the Philippines, 257kt from New Caledonia, and 635kt from other regions. China's imports of laterite nickel ore were 11.7 million mt in 2008, accounting for 94.8% of total imports of nickel ore in 2008. Among the imported laterite nickel ore, 59.9% of which were from Indonesia, 32.6% of which were from the Philippines and 2.22% of which were from New Caledonia.
China's total imports of nickel ore in 2009 were 16.57 million mt, including 7.23 million mt from Indonesia, 8.78 million mt from the Philippines, 0 mt from New Caledonia, and 224kt from other regions. China's imports of laterite nickel ore were 16.01 million mt in 2008, accounting for 97% of total imports of nickel ore in 2009. Among the imported laterite nickel ore, 43.7% of which were from Indonesia, 53% of which were from the Philippines.
China's imports of nickel ore have increased significantly since April 2009, which is largely due to the fact that more and more NPI producers resumed production. In this context, large amounts of laterite nickel ore were imported from abroad, so imports of nickel ore increased significantly. High volumes of importing nickel ore levels didn't mean that they were all consumed by NPI producers, and quite a large mount of imported nickel ore had turned into inventories at ports or at companies. There were a large amount of imported nickel ore in September, which is due to relatively high operating rates at NPI producers in July and relatively low sea freight in July. In addition, the expectation of the coming rainy season in the Philippines also helped increase imports of nickel ore. Most traders imported goods only before they received orders from clients. As the Philippines gradually entered the rainy season, exploration and shipment of nickel ore were negatively affected. Demand of nickel ore was sluggish, and most NPI producers still had inventories on hand. However, when entering into October, importing volumes slightly increased due to stable prices and expectation of higher sea freight.
Large amounts backlog of inventory which were left as of 2007 were largely piled at domestic major nickel ore importing ports, namely, Rizhao port, Lanshan port, Lianyungang port, Tianjin port and other ports.
Inventory levels of nickel ore gradually increased with the climb of importing nickel levels. Major ports with nickel inventories include Tianjin port, Rizhao port, Lanshan port and Lianyungang port.
China's accumulative inventories of nickel ore till January 2009 were 6.04 million mt, and China's accumulative inventories of nickel ore till October 2009 were 8.75 million mt, hitting the highest level in 2009. China's accumulative inventories of nickel ore till November 2009 were 8.44 million mt. China's imports of laterite nickel from the Philippines and Indonesia from January 2009 to November 2009 were 14.48 million mt, and inventories at major ports accounting for 58% of total importing volumes in 2009.
However, around 5 million mt inventories have been left at ports by the end of 2007, and inventories of these nickel ore with relatively low grade and low quality have been reduced to certain extend after two years' consumption. If around 1 million mt of these nickel ore have been consumed, inventories of nickel ore at major ports from January to November in 2009 accounted for 30% of inventories left before the end of 2007. Inventories of nickel ore at major ports accounts for 43% of total imported nickel ore. In this context, high proportion of 30-40% inventories levels of imported nickel may hard to change in the near term.
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