China’s iron ore imports fell 14.5% in March from the same month a year earlier, customs data showed on Wednesday as shipments declined following rain in Brazil, while the Ukraine war is expected to weigh on future trade flows.
The world’s top iron ore consumer brought in 87.28 million tonnes of the ingredient last month, down from 102.11 million in March 2021, the General Administration of Customs said.
The drop followed fewer shipments from major miners due to inclement weather. Brazilian miner Vale SA had temporarily halted its iron ore train operations in Carajas mine in early March because of heavy rain.
Arrivals of iron ore in China from Australia were almost flat from year-ago levels in March, while those from Brazil plunged 28.6% on an annual basis, Refinitiv vessel-tracking data showed.
Meanwhile, analyst expects the Ukraine-Russia conflict to pressure China’s iron ore imports in coming months.
“About 40% of iron ore from the two countries were normally shipped to China and could be disrupted,” said Wang Yingwu, analyst with Huatai Futures in Beijing, adding that some shipments from Australia and Brazil could also be diverted to other buyers next month.
In the first quarter of 2022, China imported 268.36 million tonnes of iron ore, a slip of 5.2% from 283 million in the January-March period a year ago.
The customs release also showed that China’s steel product exports stood at 4.95 million tonnes in March, down 34% year-on-year.
Some Chinese traders have been ramping up exports to Europe to fill the market gap caused by the Ukraine war, but analysts anticipate the impact to be reflected in April data.
Exports in the first three months of the year were down 25.5% to 131.8 million tonnes.
Steel imports last month fell 23.5% to 1.01 million tonnes from the prior year, with total January-March imports at 3.22 million tonnes, the customs said.