China’s imports of iron ore rose 5.1% in April from the same period the previous year, customs data showed on Tuesday, as buyers anticipated strong demand for the steelmaking ingredient during the peak spring construction season.
The world’s top iron ore consumer brought in 90.44 million tonnes of the steelmaking ingredient last month, up from 86.06 million tonnes in April 2022, the General Administration of Customs said.
Iron ore demand picked up as China’s average daily hot metal output among the surveyed 247 steel mills reached 2.45 million tonnes in April, up 5.6% from the same period the previous year, according to a Reuters calculation based on data from consultancy Mysteel.
Hot metal is a blast furnace product, and output is often used to gauge iron ore demand.
“According to our model, the usage of imported iron ore increased by over 6% in April, and therefore there is no surprise to see a mild year-on-year increase in imports in the past month,” said Pei Hao, a Shanghai-based senior analyst at international brokerage firm FIS.
“The growing pace of usage exceeded that of (iron ore) imports last month, so we believe mills replenished volumes to meet production from ports, which contributed to a relatively high offtake level seen in the month,” he added.
The April volumes, however, were below 100.23 million tonnes imported in March as shrinking steel margins undermined buying interest and Cyclone Ilsa, which had threatened Australia’s northwest region, affected shipments.
Iron ore imports over January-April totalled 385 million tonnes, up 8.6% from the same period in 2022, according to customs, benefiting from expectations of robust downstream demand recovery in March and April after Beijing’s abrupt abandonment of its strict zero-COVID policy late last year.
China’s exports of steel products in April rose 59.2% from the prior year to 7.93 million tonnes and were also marginally higher than the 7.89 million tonnes recorded in March, according to customs data.
The country shipped 28.01 million tonnes of steel abroad over January-April, up 55% year-on-year, according to customs.
China imported 585,000 tonnes of steel in April, down from 956,000 tonnes in the same month last year with the total volumes in the first four months falling 40% year-on-year to 2.5 million tonnes, customs data showed.