China’s iron ore imports up on demand

China’s iron ore imports rose 2.8 per cent for the first two months of 2021 from a year earlier, with demand for the steelmaking ingredient 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, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs on Sunday.

That’s up from 176.6 million tonnes for the same period a year earlier.

The rise was within analysts’ expectations, as shipments from China’s top two suppliers grew steadily.

Those arrivals from Australia and Brazil rose 11 per cent 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.

“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 per cent from in 2020, according to customs.

Steel products imports rose 17.4 per cent to 2.4 million tonnes.

China’s exports soared 60.6 per cent overall in January-February compared with the same period last year, while imports rose 22.2 per cent.

Trade surplus came in at $US103.25 billion ($A134.32 billion) for January-February.

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