UTC+8 ( BJT)

China’s June steel exports at 8-y low, imports 10-y high

China’s steel exports in June reached an eight-year low of 3.7 million tonnes while the country’s steel imports topped 1.9 million tonnes to hit a ten-year high, according to the latest statistics from China’s General Administration of Customs published on July 14. Industry sources cited low steel demand in the rest of world amid the COVID-19 outbreak for the fall in exports, and the early demand recovery in China after the virus eased for the surge in the latter.

The total steel export volumes declined 15.9% on month or 30.3% on year, GACC’s data showed.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, over 70% of auto producers in Europe, Japan and South Korea, the major buyers of China’s flat steel, halted production. This led their domestic prices – and those of exports from other countries – to slump, and China’s products were completely lacking price competitiveness,” a Shanghai-based steel analyst commented.

“Though industries in these countries have been recovering their operations recently to revive their economies, steel demand is still largely lower on year,” he noted.

Over January-June, China’s total exports reached 28.7 million tonnes, down 16.5% on year, according to GACC’s statistics. The tonnages for July and August are expected to stay low, as the orders received by Chinese mills and exporters have only started to rebound this month, Mysteel Global notes. This tonnage will be mainly reflected in September’s export shipment volumes.

Meanwhile, China’s steel imports in June were 46.8% higher on month and higher by 99.9% on year, the GACC’s data shows, taking China’s total steel imports in H1 to 7.3 million tonnes, up 26.1% on year.

The COVID-19 situation has been effectively controlled in China since April, which coincided with outbreaks of the virus in other countries. China’s steel prices started to recover while ASEAN, India, the CIS region, Japan and South Korea, as well as countries in South America, took turns to be the country or region with the lowest steel prices. As a result, the price gap between China and the rest of the world on occasions reached “as high as over $50/t,” the Shanghai analyst observed.

“With the serious imbalance in global steel demand, all countries focused their attention on the China market, the only market where demand is seen returning to normal levels,” he said.

ASEAN, one of the major sources of China’s steel imports, for example, saw its exports to China triple in the first four months of this year to 1.2 million tonnes, as Mysteel Global reported.

Written by Olivia Zhang, zhangwd@mysteel.com

Edited by Russ McCulloch, russ.mcculloch@mysteel.com