China's imports of nickel ore and concentrate in the coming months are expected to taper or remain flat due to the start of the monsoon season in parts of Southeast Asia, weak nickel ore prices and slow demand, analysts said.
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"Monthly imports may stay at around 4 million mt," a Beijing-based nickel analyst said.
Philippine exporters would also be discouraged from exporting due to the current weak nickel ore prices, he said.
In September, China's imports of nickel ore fell 30.5% year on year and 14.4% month on month to 4.64 million mt, according to data released last week by the General Administration of Customs.
Imports from the Philippines, China's largest supplier of nickel ore and concentrate, rose 27% on the year but fell 15.1% on the month to 4.52 million mt in September.
"Imports will continue to fall due to the monsoon. Current demand is also not good," a Shanghai-based nickel analyst said, noting that shipments from Southeast Asia are typically affected by monsoon at least until March.
Nickel ore and concentrates are imported for use in the Chinese nickel pig iron industry, which has recently seen prices fall as a result of lower global nickel metal prices, ample supply and slow demand from the local stainless steel sector.
China's total imports of nickel ore and concentrates in the first nine months of the year fell 22.8% year on year to 38.2 million mt. in the same period, imports from the Philippines rose 27.3 % to 27.1 million mt while those from Indonesia fell 61.9% to 10.6 million mt.
Indonesia implemented an export ban on nickel ore exports in January.