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China's 2018 ferrous scrap import, export figures tumble as market expected

China's 2018 ferrous scrap import, export figures tumble as market expected

China's 2018 figures showed large declines on ferrous scrap movements into and out of the country, according to China's customs data posted Wednesday.

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The country imported 1.34 million mt of ferrous scrap in 2018, down 42% from 2017. Whilst the export figure was 0.33 million mt, down by a staggering 85% on the year, the data showed.

The lower export figures did not come as a surprise to many in the market as China previously saw an unnatural bumper year of exports in 2017. Scrap was being forced out of the country following widespread closure of unlicensed induction furnaces, which was estimated to have consumed about 60 million mt of scrap that was not previously officially accounted for, and this caused regional scrap prices to dive on the sudden abundant supply of Chinese scrap.

The fall in imports too was not unexpected upon China's heighten environmental concerns on waste import, which pushed the country to enforce restrictions and bans on certain waste imports, including scrap. Such import limitations came into place since July 2017, after the country's Ministry of Ecology and Environment announced its plans to battle foreign waste imports.

Major exporters of scrap to China faced a tough task to continue their disposal of unprocessed ferrous scrap to China. Japan for example, being the largest scrap exporter to China in 2017, had to find alternative destinations in the region for its disposal of scrap from end-of-life electronics and appliances.

Subsequently, China took another step forward in this battle to issue a ban on more types of waste products and scrap effective December 31, 2018, and further widening its import restrictions list to cover more scrap products, which will take effect July 1 this year, as previously reported by S&P Global Platts.

--Samuel Chin, samuel.chin@spglobal.com

--Edited by Ikhhlaq Singh Aujla, newsdesk@spglobal.com