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China's Q1 recycled steel raw material imports reach 55,389 mt

Singapore — China imported 55,389 mt of recycled steel raw materials during the first quarter of 2021, up more than 16-fold from the 3,366 mt in the year-earlier quarter, Chinese custom data showed April 22.

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The majority of the imports came from Japan, standing at 30,635 mt or 55.3%, followed by Malaysia volumes at 11,445 mt, or 20.7%, and South Korean at 9,021 mt.

Imports begun warming up month on month through Q1, with January marking only 4,060 mt, while February was up slightly to 5,765 mt. March made up the bulk of Q1's volumes, at 45,564 mt.

This stepwise monthly growth was attributed to import versus domestic price differences, as China's allowance of raw material imports starting Jan. 1 came amid a time where seaborne prices were less competitive to its domestic ones. Additionally, buyers and sellers were also warming up to the practices, requirements and acceptance levels of its customs.

Imports began gaining traction in late January, just prior to the Lunar New Year holidays, where international seaborne prices fell from its multiyear highs. The Platts HRS101 Heavy Recycle Steel CFR China spot assessment saw prices from an early January high of $490/mt, fell to a low of $408/mt Jan. 29.

This window of opportunity, however, lasted only until the holidays, when regional demand eventually uplifted prices back to multi-year high levels, with the index then peaking at $500/mt in March.

Though even at such levels, small volumes of trades were concluded even into April, as mills and traders were still adjusting to the novelty of imports, wanting to accustom themselves to the import trade.