China’s iron ore imports dropped in 2021, down 4.3% from the
previous year’s record annual high, as steel production curbs imposed
to combat pollution dented demand and pulled prices of the key steelmaking
material off historical highs.
The world’s top iron ore consumer brought in 1.12 billion tonnes
of the commodity last year, compared with 1.17 billion tonnes imported in 2020,
data from the General Administration showed on Friday.
For December, China imported 86.07 million tonnes of the raw
material, down 18% from November, the data showed.
China consumed iron ore at a rapid rate in the first five months
of 2021, backed by robust steel production as mills enjoyed decent
profits underpinned by a recovery in demand after the first waves of the
However, imports then started to contract on an annual basis as
authorities urged steel mills to cut production to meet an annual
target of keeping crude steel output flat. Slowing construction
activity also muted downstream demand for the industrial metal.
During June-December 2021, China’s iron ore imports slid nearly
10% from the same period a year earlier. Benchmark iron ore futures prices on
the Dalian Commodity Exchange dived 45% by end-December from the peak of 1,239
yuan per tonne logged in May.
“For 2022, iron ore supplies from major miners are expected to
remain stable, while the demand-side is largely decided by authorities’ policy
towards steel output controls,” said Zhuo Guiqiu, analyst with Jinrui
A government-backed consultancy expects iron ore imports to
continue to decline to around 1.08 billion tonnes in 2022 on
falling steel production and increasing usage
of steel scrap.
The customs data on Friday also showed the
country’s steel products exports jumped 24.6% to 66.9 million tonnes
in 2021 from a year earlier, though mills and traders had been urged by Beijing
to ensure supply for domestic market.
China’s steel imports last year dropped 29.5% to 14.3
million tonnes, according to the customs.
(By Min Zhang and Dominique Patton; Editing by Christian
Schmollinger and Shri Navaratnam)