SHANGHAI, Mar. 29 -- Zinc exports from China, the biggest producer and consumer, to Japan may gain after the earthquake on March 11 disrupted smelter production, said an executive at Shanghai Eagle-Metals Co.
"Our orders for zinc jumped after the quake in Japan," said Li Zhihua, president of Eagle-Metals, one of the largest privately-owned nonferrous metals trading companies in China. "Some smelters suspended operations after the earthquake and transport may be a problem as well, so some buyers are sourcing from China."
Zinc smelters in Japan, including Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co, Dowa Holdings Co, and Toho Zinc Co have suspended operations after the magnitude-9 temblor and tsunami. The affected capacity totaled 451,200 tons, according to Bloomberg's calculations. The metal, used to galvanize steel, is widely found in home appliances and vehicles.
"There is ample smelting capacity available in China to take more concentrates and increase metal output," while the timing for a restart in Japan is not yet known, Macquarie Group Ltd said in a research report on Monday.
Zinc for delivery in three months on the London Metal Exchange has fallen 2 percent this year and traded at $2,402 a ton at 10:16 am Shanghai time. It has gained 5.2 percent since March 11.
"Japanese companies usually keep zero inventories, maybe enough for just two or three days, so when such catastrophic disasters happen, they have to turn to other sources to secure supply," Li said.
Zinc output in China fell 12.7 percent to 799,000 tons in the first two months of this year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
The country's exports of unwrought zinc declined 79 percent to 3,318 tons in January-February, while imports gained 14 percent to 69,114 tons, according to the General Administration of Customs.
The death toll from Japan's worst postwar disaster climbed to 9,811, with 17,541 people missing, according to the National Police Agency in Tokyo. More than 250,000 people are living in 1,913 evacuation centers after the quake and tsunami devastated the country's northern coastline.