Trade of tin concentrates between China and Myanmar declined in August as coronavirus control measures suspended transport through a crucial border town between the two countries.
China imported some 15,557 tonnes of tin ores and concentrates in August, of which 80% originated in neighbouring Myanmar.
Typically, ore and concentrate shipments pass through a handful of towns that sit on the border of China and Myanmar. However, due to COVID control measures implemented in China, shipments through Menglian were suspended for roughly one week. As a result, imports from Myanmar declined some 31% between July and August to 3,100 tonnes of contained tin.
China also sources some raw materials from other countries around the world, including Australia and the DRC. These imports increased by 67% to an estimated 1,500 tonnes tin-in-concentrate.
In total, China’s raw materials supply was down some 18% compared to July, equivalent to nearly 3,500 gross tonnes. Estimated tin content declined by 800 tonnes (15%).
Our view: COVID control measures continue to disrupt tin concentrate supply from the world’s third largest producer. Output from mines in Myanmar still has not fully recovered due to worker shortages earlier this year.
Despite the fall in production caused by worker issues, total imports into China have been supported by sales from the local Myanmar government ore stockpile. Sales have been ongoing since July, with an estimated 4,000 tonnes of tin-in-concentrate already having been sold. Local sources indicate that another 4,000 tonnes (contained tin) will be auctioned in the final quarter of 2021.
It is possible that imports from Myanmar could jump slightly in September as the export backlog is cleared – as was seen in July this year. However, monthly shipments are likely to average around 3,000 tonnes tin-in-concentrate during the fourth quarter as lower mine production is offset by government sales.