According to the latest customs statistics, China’s tin ore and concentrate imports in February 2018 totalled 19,561 tonnes. 19,488 tonnes was imported from Myanmar with an estimated tin content of 4,900 tonnes, less than half of January levels.
The estimated tin content of ore and concentrate from Myanmar in January and February was 16,000 tonnes, almost double the tin content of the same period of 2017. The trade data also reveals refined tin and alloy imports in February amounted to 196 tonnes, while exports totalled 747 tonnes. The low value reported for the exported tin suggests it was predominantly tin in alloy form rather than refined tin ingot.
Our View: Imports of tin concentrate from Myanmar are typically much lower in February due to the Chinese New Year and this has been the case again in 2018. Contrary to our previous expectations, Chinese traders have indicated that shipment levels fell further in March, with an estimated tin content of some 2,000 tonnes. We don’t know the reason behind the reported drop so we wait to see this confirmed in China’s official import data later this month. However, the weaker shipments match the widespread expectation in China that the feed available to smelters from Myanmar will decline significantly in 2018 due to local resource depletion and rising mining costs. The impact of this will be offset to a large extent by increased domestic mine production in China this year, although reduced concentrate supply is expected to lead to a tighter market in the latter half of 2018.