Latest official customs statistics released by China last week report February imports of tin ore and concentrate from Myanmar totalled 8,641 tonnes (gross weight), unchanged from February 2016, but down 72% compared to January. The latest data is unsurprising, as it is usual for February shipments to be impacted by the Chinese Spring Festival holidays.
Myanmar was the source of over 99% of China’s reported tin ore and concentrate imports in January and February, which totalled exactly 40,000 tonnes, down 51% from 81,077 tonnes for the same period of 2016. While Chinese Spring Festival impacted Myanmar’s February tin exports in both 2016 and 2017, the lower overall shipments can be explained by the large sales of local government concentrate stockpiles in January last year. In addition, improvements in local ore processing facilities have resulted in higher tin content in exported ore and concentrate of around 16-17% Sn, with the tin content of Myanmar’s shipments to China in the first two months of the year estimated at 6,600 tonnes. High smelter treatment charges reported in January and February may also have affected sales.
ITRI View: We remain of the view that an underlying decline in mined tin output from Wa in Myanmar will limit exports in 2017. It is too early to tell from customs data whether this is already happening, due to the seasonal impact on shipments in the early part of the year. In the short-term, a recovery in tin shipments is anticipated in March following the end of disruption from the Chinese holidays, with volumes also likely to be boosted by a shortage of smelter feed in China, which led to lower treatment charges for Myanmar concentrate earlier this month.