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Chinese iron ore imports close to record high in June on strong steel output

Highlights

June iron ore imports for China at 101.7 mil mt

Marks second-highest monthly imports on record

Imports from Australia at record high of 66.1 mil mt

Singapore — China imported a total of 101.7 million mt of iron ore in June, the second highest monthly imports on record, latest China Customs data showed, underpinned by robust demand from the Chinese steel mills and a recovery in supply from major iron ore producing countries such as Brazil.

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Imports from Brazil recovered strongly by 46% on the month to reach 17 million mt, as Vale and other iron ore miners shrugged off impacts from the monsoon season, according to statistics released by the China Customs on July 25.

Brazilian iron ore exports to China showed some early signs of recovery in April and May, according to the export statistics published by the Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services in Brazil.

However, a notable recovery in exports from Brazil to China did not register until June, when the number jumped 52% on the month to reach 22.8 million mt.

Considering the typical voyage time of one and half months for iron ore cargoes shipped from Brazil to China, this means that the July Chinese iron ore imports, to be released by the China Customs in August, are likely to see an even higher contribution from Brazil.

Click to read Platts Asia Metals Quarterly Trade Insight

Imports from Australia, the biggest source of seaborne iron ore supply to China, rose to a record high of 66.1 million mt in June, up 12% on the month and 18% on the year. As June was the last month of the Australian fiscal year 2019-20 (July-June), some Australian miners such as BHP and FMG were heard incentivized to ship out as much iron ore as possible by the end of June to book the sales for fiscal 2019-20.

Imports from India, Ukraine, and Russia also hit a record high in June, at 4.6 million mt, 2.9 million mt, and 1.3 million mt, respectively. With the steel mills outside China continuing to face weak downstream steel demand, their appetite for iron ore remains low. Iron ore producing countries are increasingly reliant on China to absorb their iron ore output.