China’s commodity imports remained solid in September
China’s imports of major commodities including iron ore, copper, oil and soybeans rose in September from August.
China is the world’s biggest crude oil importer and top buyer of copper, coal, iron ore and soybeans.
There were mixed results for iron ore (up) and coal (down, again – see separate story)
While China’s crude oil imports edged up 2.1% in September from August, the volumes were down on mid year when the country’s massive purchases of oil during the record slump in global prices in March and April saw China buy up big.
So large were the purchases that the number of tankers arriving in China from July onwards caused delays and port congestion, or were slowed to allow more tank storage to be built at import terminals.
China imported 48.48 million tonnes of oil last month, according to data from the General Administration of Customs on Tuesday, or 11.8 million barrels a day (bpd). That’s well below the more than 53 million tonnes imported earlier in the year in June.
That compares to 11.18 million bpd in August and 10.04 million bpd in September last year, but still below the record high level of 12.94 million bpd in June.
For the first 9 months of 2020, China’s imports rose 12.7% to 416 million tonnes of crude oil, the customs data showed, or about 11.08 million bpd, compared to the first 9 months of 2019.
September’s natural gas imports, both piped and liquefied natural gas (LNG), totalled 8.66 million tonnes, up 5.5% from a year earlier. For the January-September 9 months natural gas imports rose 3.7% year-on-year at 73.73 million tonnes. Unlike oil China did not splurge on LNG imports when prices followed oil down.
Imports of unwrought copper and copper products rose 8.1% to 722,450 tonnes from August, close to record imports levels of 762,210.9 in July. That was also sharply higher than the 445,000 tonnes in September 2019.
Copper imports in the first nine months of 2020 were up 41% from a year earlier at 4.99 million tonnes,
Imports of copper concentrate, or partially processed copper ore, totalled 2.14 million tonnes in September, the highest monthly levels in 10 months. That was up by over a third from August, and also from September 2019.
China exported 426,469 tonnes of unwrought aluminium and aluminium products, including primary, alloy and semi-finished aluminium products, in September, up from August’s 395,424 tonnes and the highest monthly shipments since April.
Imports of meat continued to surge in September because of the shortages caused by the continuing supply problems due to the mass culling of China’s pig herds last year to control swine fever.
That took a big chunk out of the country’s producing herds, meaning supply shortages which will continue into 2021 and a rise in imports of pork, beef, lamb and chicken.
September meat imports totalled 834,000 tonnes, up from August’s 632,000 tonnes. Imports of pork jumped 81% month on month, the customs data showed.
The Customs Administration said January-September pork imports surged 132.2% year-on-year to 3.29 million tonnes; while beef imports were up 38.8% year-on-year at 1.57 million tonnes. The latter has helped keep Australian meat prices high.
And Chinese imports of soybeans in September rose nearly 2% to 9.79 million tonnes from 9.6 million tonnes in August. September’s figure was also up 19% from 8.2 million tonnes in September last year.
China’s January-September soybean imports were up 15.5% year-on-year at 74.53 million tonnes.