SHANGHAI, Jun. 5 (SMM) –
China Customs data show China imported 6.74 million mt of bauxite in April, an increase of 29.72% YoY. YTD imports through April hit 20.65 million mt, also up 14.62% YoY. Bauxite CIF prices in April averaged USD 51.21/mt, an increase of 18.74% from the same period last year.
Based on import volumes of six major Chinese bauxite importers, Indonesian bauxite has once again gained favor, followed by Australian, Indian, Guinean and Fijian bauxite.
China’s imports from Indonesia during April have now approached levels prior to the Indonesian government restricting bauxite exports back in June 2012. China’s bauxite imports from Australia and India have also grown sharply, and SMM believes two factors are behind the recent growth in bauxite imports. First, the Indonesian government has still not sent clear signals whether or not it will impose an outright export ban on unprocessed bauxite ore in 2014. As a result, Chinese alumina producers stepped up bauxite imports to avoid possible future raw material shortages. Second, the commissioning of new alumina capacity by Shandong Weiqiao Pioneering Group and Chongqing Bosai Minerals Group boosted demand for imported bauxite.
China imported 321,400 mt of alumina in April, and YTD imports through April totaled 1.36 million mt, down 6.03% YoY. Growing supply and falling prices for domestic alumina have taken away market share of imported alumina, causing imports to fall.
China imported 14,000 mt of primary aluminum during April, up 14.11% YoY, but down 26.31% MoM, and SMM attributes the decline in aluminum imports to three factors. First, the SHFE/LME aluminum price ratio during March was 7.3-7.7, unfavorable for imports. Second, international primary aluminum premium was as high as USD 240/mt, pushing import costs up. Third, domestic aluminum supply was also plentiful, reducing demand for imports.
China exported 260,000 mt of aluminum semis during April, up 8.33% YoY, while YTD exports through April were 930,000 mt, a gain of 5.68% YoY. Chinese producers ramped up exports against tightening liquidity during the second quarter since overseas buyers offered quicker payments. In addition, high premium for overseas aluminum has helped make Chinese aluminum semis more attractive in overseas markets, helping boost growth in aluminum semis exports.