The latest customs data from China indicates that the country imported significant quantities of tin during March, likely because of the high local price.
China imported some 28,986 tonnes of tin ores and concentrates (gross weight) in March 2022. This material was estimated to contain some 11,100 tonnes of tin, up 85% both month-on-month and year-on-year.
Some 74% of the estimated tin content came from Myanmar, totalling roughly 6,700 tonnes. This marks a significant increase on February’s total (72%) and year-on-year (49%). Imports from other countries were also up month-on-month (110%) and year-on-year (193%). Significant volumes of concentrate were shipped from Australia and the DR Congo – two usual sources – but also from Thailand (some 510 gross tonnes).
Refined tin trade, both in and out of China, also hit highs in March. Some 1,946 tonnes of metal were imported in March, with 1,224 tonnes moving in the opposite direction. Indonesia was the primary source of imported refined tin (1,831 tonnes), while exports were primarily to Europe (Italy and the Netherlands) or elsewhere in Asia (South Korea and Taiwan).
Our view: High tin prices in China during March encouraged significant imports of tin concentrate and refined tin metal. Imports from Myanmar maintained their high level during the month, while imports from the rest of the world jumped.
Although local outbreaks of COVID have been hindering shipments of tin concentrate from mine sites in Myanmar and have closed one of the port towns (Menglian), they have had little effect on the volume shipped to China. Instead, local Myanmar government sales of tin concentrate have been supporting volumes.
Refined tin imports spiked in March to the highest since July 2020, but came in under our initial estimate of 3,000 tonnes. It is likely that some material was delayed at ports and will arrive in April instead.