Typically a net exporter of primary aluminium by a wide margin, the People’s Republic of China reverted to the same in September per numbers just released by the central government.
Numbers released by the General Administration of Customs on Friday indicated that the Middle Kingdom brought in 355,999 metric tons of primary aluminium last month, while it exported 426,469 metric tons of the metal.
Though good for a rise of 642 percent on the year, imports in September fell by 17.1 percent from August’s total of 429,464 metric tons. August’s total was the highest number in over a decade and the second-highest total yet recorded by Chinese authorities.
China’s vast aluminium production capacity is typically sufficient to meet its needs in most years, but the upended economy has shaken up both prices and supplies of the metal. Due to a rise in prices in Shanghai and a drop in prices in London, the import of aluminium became significantly more attractive than buying from domestic producers, while the Chinese economy’s rapid recovery from the coronavirus has spiked domestic demand for several weeks.
Though the arbitrage situation ended in August, deliveries of aluminium purchased during the price differential continued through the month of September.
For the third quarter, Chinese buyers took delivery of 1.177 million metric tons of aluminium from overseas producers, with the country being a net importer for both July and August. Exports during the period came to 1.195 million metric tons.
Wan Ling of CRU told Reuters that up to 150 thousand metric tons of last month’s imports consists of primary aluminium.
“Import volumes will be down significantly from November,” she predicted, despite another brief arbitrage window at the end of September through the beginning of October.
For the year through September, China imported 1.99 million metric tons of aluminium, good for a rise of 381.1 percent on the year. Current trends point to at least a near-record year for imports, challenging the 2.32 million metric tons Chinese importers brought to its shores in 2009.