In terms of gross weight, reported in the latest customs data, China imported some 20,500 tonnes over the January-February period. Nearly 17,000 tonnes of this material came from Myanmar. Compared to 2020, this represents a 27% decline. With an estimated concentrate grade of 25% Sn (27% Sn in 2020), the total tin content of the Myanmar imports over the two-month period was down some 31% year-on-year.
However, imports from other countries made up half of this deficit. Continued imports from the DRC and Australia, as well as a ~400 tonne (gross) package from Bolivia helped push inflows up to some 1,800 tonnes in February. This follows a 1,650 tonne inflow in January. Compared to 2020, imports from countries excluding Myanmar are actually up 126%.
Our view: Imports from Myanmar during January and February 2021 were under pressure from three factors: a wave of COVID-19 infections in the country, the Spring Festival holiday, and political turmoil.
In January, tin concentrate shipments through the border town of Menglian were interrupted for two weeks due to an outbreak of COVID-19 at the main mining areas in the country. Transportation was further suspended for 10 days during the Spring Festival holiday in February. On top of this, the political turmoil caused a temporary closure of the Ruili border town.
Both border towns have now reopened. We expect tin shipments from Myanmar to return to around 3,500 tonnes (metal content) in March. In 2020, March saw a significant rise in imports, and so we still expect a small decline annually. The high tin price is likely to incentivise more low grade ore production, while we do not expect further disruption to supply due to the ongoing political changes.