China Jan-Feb iron ore imports up 2.8% on healthy demand

The rise was expected, as shipments from China’s top two suppliers, Australia and Brazil, grew steadily. (Image of iron ore train in Western Australia by Calistemon, Wikimedia Commons)

China’s iron ore imports rose 2.8% for the first two months of 2021 from a year earlier, customs data showed on Sunday, as demand for the steelmaking ingredient was supported by a firm consumption outlook.

The world’s top steelmaking nation brought in 181.5 million tonnes of iron ore in January and February, up from 176.6 million tonnes for the same period a year earlier, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs.

The rise was within analysts’ expectations, as shipments from China’s top two suppliers grew steadily. Those arrivals from Australia and Brazil rose 11% to 164 million tonnes, Refinitiv vessel-tracking data showed.

The China Iron and Steel Association forecasts steel demand will grow slightly this year, buoying sentiment in the ferrous sector. But the industry ministry had repeatedly urged companies to cut China’s crude steel output this year in line with President Xi Jinping’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2060.

The world’s top steelmaking nation brought in 181.5 million tonnes of iron ore in January and February, up from 176.6 million tonnes for the same period a year earlier

“It remains unclear how the production reduction is going to be implemented,” Zhuo Guiqiu, an analyst with Jinrui Capital, said before data was released. “If crude steel output is really curbed … and taking steel scrap into account, iron ore demand for the whole year could drop.”

China approved imports of high-grade steel scrap this year under new national standards, while major domestic steel producers are developing their metals scrap-recycling businesses.

In the first two months, China exported 10.14 million tonnes of steel products, up 30% from in 2020, according to customs. Steel products imports rose 17.4% to 2.4 million tonnes.

(By Min Zhang, Hallie Gu and Ryan Woo; Editing by William Mallard)

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