China’s iron ore imports have risen for a third straight month to a 20-month high fuelled by firm demand at steel mills and stable shipments from big miners.
The world’s top iron ore consumer brought in 99.36 million tonnes of the mineral in September, the biggest purchase since January 2018, calculations show.
That was up 4.8 per cent from 94.85 million tonnes in August and compared with 93.47 million tonnes a year earlier.
For the first nine months of the year, arrivals of the key steelmaking ingredient totalled 784 million tonnes, down 2.4 per cent from 803.34 million tonnes in the same period a year ago.
Demand for iron ore at China’s steel mills has been firm despite curbs last month when China implemented measures to cut factory pollution ahead of celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic.
Utilisation rates at Chinese steel mills were about 68 per cent in the first three weeks of September but fell to 57.6 per cent in the final week, the lowest since August 2012, data compiled by Mysteel shows.
“The curbs ahead of National Day were strict but were a one-off,” said Zhao Yu, analyst with Huatai Futures, speaking before data was released, noting that steel output has been running at high levels this year.
“Shipments from Brazil and Australia that were due to discharged in China last month were stable,” she added.
Stocks of iron ore at China’s major ports stood at 125.55 million tonnes as of end-September, little changed from end-August, data compiled by consultancy SteelHome showed.
China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment said in September it would set stricter targets for polluting cities for this year’s northern autumn-winter heating season.
But analysts don’t expect a major impact on steel production.