China’s iron ore imports in September fell 1.9% from a month earlier, official customs data showed on Wednesday, as environment-related steel production controls restrained consumption of the steelmaking raw material.
The world’s biggest iron ore consumer imported 95.61 million tonnes of it last month, compared with 97.49 million tonnes in August and 108.55 million tonnes in September 2020, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.
In the first three quarters of the year, China brought in 841.95 million tonnes of iron ore, falling 3% from the same period a year earlier, according to the customs office.
Despite increasing shipments from global miners last month, with iron ore exports from Australia’s Port Hedland here to China rising 7.6% month-on-month to 38.62 million tonnes in September, demand for it in China remains lacklustre.
Beijing implemented stringent production controls at mills as it aims to put a lid on annual crude steel output. A recent power crunch across the country also weighed on factory activity.
The industry ministry said in a notice on Wednesday that mills in northern China should cut output from Nov. 15 until mid-March to improve air quality.
“Steel production will continue to be restrained during the heating season and winter Olympics. It will be hard to see any rise in domestic iron ore consumption,” analysts with Huatai Futures said in a note before the data was released.
Atilla Widnell, managing director at Navigate Commodities in Singapore, said: “With Chinese blast furnace capacity utilization rates staying close to current multi-year lows ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics, we envisage this will result in a material build in portside (iron ore) inventories over the next few months.”
China’s steel product exports stood at 4.92 million tonnes in September, down 2.6% from the previous month, customs data showed. Exports for the first nine months were at 53.02 million tonnes.
Steel imports last month rose 18.16% from August to 1.26 million tonnes, according to the data. January-September steel imports were 10.72 million tonnes.