The tin industry in China is beginning to recover from the COVID-19 outbreak, with imports of tin concentrate returning to normal levels. Refined metal imports remain elevated as demand grows.
According to the latest customs data, China imported 4,000 tonnes of tin-in-concentrate in March, an increase of 11% year-on-year. Imports from Myanmar were 3,700 tonnes tin-in-concentrate, a 19% YoY increase.
In total, tin concentrate imported in Q1 contained 11,000 tonnes of tin, of which 9,900 tonnes was from Myanmar. These totals were down some 13% and 11% YoY, respectively.
In March, China’s refined tin imports reached 1,180 tonnes. This surpassed the largest monthly imports since January and February last year. In March, exports were 479 tonnes, with net imports reaching 721 tonnes, a monthly increase of 26%. Imports of refined tin from Indonesia amounted to 1,075 tonnes. Those from Thailand and Malaysia were 59 tonnes and 20 tonnes, respectively.
Our view: Mine production in Myanmar is slowly improving, and around 60% of production is now in operation. Low tin prices and concerns over COVID-19 continue to affect how quickly mines will resume in Myanmar. Local companies estimate that tin concentrate production in April and May will be below 3,000 tonnes/month. This is still below the usual level of 3,500 tonnes/month.
With the domestic COVID-19 epidemic under control, downstream companies have almost resumed full production. As such, domestic consumption has also recovered. While much of the refined tin import business has been due to the continued wide arbitrage between the SHFE and LME, increasing demand has absorbed this additional supply.