SHANGHAI, Jul. 1 (SMM) - China Customs reported China imported 100,500 mt of lead concentrate during May, up 1.94% from April. YTD imports through May totaled 545,000 mt, down 18.56% YoY.
The rise of lead concentrate imports during May was mainly the result of increased orders placed in March and April when the Shanghai/LME lead price ratio was between 6.7-6.9, up sharply from the 6.3 in February.
Production halts at Chinese primary lead smelters since February due to average lead prices falling to RMB 13,780/mt also caused demand for imported concentrate to fall sharply, with lead concentrate imports falling in February, March and April. However, the average operating rate at primary lead smelters returned in April to 57% since an increasing number of smelters restarting production, pushing up demand for raw materials. Tight domestic concentrate supply also caused smelters to import more concentrate during April.
45% of China’s lead concentrate imports during May came from Belgium, Russia, and North Korea, while imports from Australia and US, traditionally China’s major suppliers, fell to 1,512 mt and 74 mt, respectively. No imports were reported from Peru, another traditional lead concentrate supplier.