China’s finished steel exports rise 31% in H1, imports drop 35%

China’s finished steel exports increased sharply in the first six months of 2023, but imports decreased over the same period, according to data released by country’s General Administration of Customs on Thursday July 13.

Exports totaled 7.51 million tonnes in June, down by 0.7% year on year from 7.56 million tonnes and by 10.2% from 8.36 million tonnes in May.

Although June’s exports decreased, shipments in the first half of 2023 were up from the year-earlier period due to high export volumes in the past few months.

Exports totaled 43.58 million tonnes in the first half year, up by 31.3% year on year from 33.19 million tonnes (revised downward from 33.46 million tonnes previously), according to Chinese customs data.

China’s export prices of steel products were lower than the corresponding period of last year and lower than many suppliers in other regions due to the weak demand in the local market, so steel exports increased year on year, sources said.

For instance, Fastmarkets’ steel hot-rolled coil index export, fob main port China, averaged $634 per tonne and $563 per tonne in the first and second quarters of 2023 respectively. This compares with averages of $814 per tonne in the first quarter of 2022 and $773 per tonne in the second quarter of 2022.

At the same time, Fastmarkets’ price assessment for steel hot-rolled coil export, fob Black Sea, CIS, averaged $694 per tonne in the first quarter of 2023 and $616 per tonne in the second quarter of 2023. This is $60 per tonne and $53 per tonne higher respectively than China’s export prices over the corresponding periods.

But market participants were bearish on exports for the remainder of the year.

“The Russia-Ukraine war disrupted steel exports from these two countries in the first half year, so Chinese exporters got the chance to sell more steel to the international market,” an exporter in Shanghai said.

“But some suppliers have increased their export volumes over the past few months, which would be strong competition for China. Chinese steel may not be the first choice for foreign buyers in the second half year,” he added.

For instance, Vietnam exported 4.38 million tonnes of iron and steel in the first five months of 2023, up by 10% from 3.98 million tonnes in the same period of last year, according to Vietnamese customs data.

China’s imports of finished steel totaled 3.74 million tonnes in the first half of 2023, down by 35.2% year on year from 5.77 million tonnes, according to the country’s customs data.

China imported 612,000 tonnes of finished steel in June, down by 22.6% year on year from 791,000 tonnes and by 3% month on month from 631,000 tonnes.

Published by: Jessica Zong