Latest customs figures show that China’s imports of tin ores and concentrates in August were almost three times the volume recorded in August 2015. The gross weight of imports last month was 38,428 tonnes (estimated 4,600t contained tin), up 188% year-on-year, of which 99% originated from Myanmar.

Total imports in the first eight months of the year amounted to 329,373 tonnes (of which 328,459 tonnes, or some 39,000t contained tin was from Myanmar), up by 92% compared to the same period of last year.

In contrast to the huge trade in ore and concentrate, trade flows in tin metal have been small and declining. Year to date refined tin imports fell by 17% to 5,466t, while reported exports dropped to just 1 tonne (to Russia) in August, bringing year-to-date exports to just 725 tonnes. However the recent widening of the differential between Chinese and LME prices may stimulate higher exports in the coming months, particularly in the form of tin products not subject to 10% export duty.

ITRI View: We believe that around a third of Myanmar exports to China in July-August were accounted for by sales from the Wa government’s stocks, and that shipments from the Man Maw mining area to the border have been quite low during the rainy season. Production may start to recover as weather improves from October onwards, but underlying supply will continue to be negatively affected by the depletion of higher grade ore resources.