Chinese iron ore imports fell to 88.5 million tonnes in July, the lowest level since May 2020.
The fall in July means that accumulated imports are lower than in the first seven months of 2020. Imports this year have totalled 649.0 million tonnes, a 1.6% decline from January to July 2020. In July, imports were down 21.4% from the same month in 2020 when they reached a record high of 112.7m tonnes.
Steel production declines following government restrictions
In addition to the July drop in iron ore imports China’s steel production fell to 86.8m tonnes (source: NBS China) as the government seeks to impose limits on steel production to meet climate emissions goals. Chinese steel production was strong in the first six months of the year, and with a resilient domestic demand, it appears that the government restrictions are limiting further growth rather than the actual appetite for steel.
“A decline in Chinese iron ore imports following record-breaking imports in the first six months to the year seemed inevitable viewing that the Chinese government wishes to keep emissions growth in check. However, as demand for steel remains strong in China, it remains to be seen to which extend the Chinese government will continue to limit steel supply due to environmental concerns,” says Peter Sand, BIMCO’s Chief Shipping Analyst.
Strong iron ore imports from Brazil
In the first six months of the year, which is the most recent data available by origin, Brazil is the only major exporter of iron ore to China that has experienced growth. Brazilian export volumes are up by 14.3% in the first half of the year, reaching 108.3 million tonnes, and thereby cementing its second spot. This is however still down from the record of 109.2m tonnes of iron ore which China imported from Brazil in the first six months of 2017. Australia remains solidly in the top spot despite a fall in imports. In the first six months of the year imports from Australia have fallen by 1.3% to 344.8 million tonnes.