China Oct alumina exports surge to more than 460,000 tonnes

26 November 2018

China’s exports of alumina soared to their highest since at least 2014 in October as Chinese producers of the aluminum raw material continued to cash in on a global shortage.

The country exported 460,072 tonnes of the substance last month, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs on Friday.

That is the highest monthly export total in records on the customs website going back to June 2014, and easily beats a bumper figure of 165,839 tonnes in September.

China, which is historically a net importer of alumina, has exported just shy of 1 million tonnes of alumina so far in 2018, according to the customs data, in a year of supply disruptions that have turned the global alumina market on its head.

China’s alumina exports in October alone surpassed the volume shipped across the previous three calendar years, 2015, 2016 and 2017 added together.

Shortages in the global markets have been caused by an outage at Norsk Hydro’s Alunorte refinery in Brazil and a now-concluded strike at Alcoa’s alumina operations in Western Australia, while U.S. sanctions on United Company Rusal left buyers wary of taking the Russian firm’s volumes.

International spot alumina prices spiked by more than 30 percent in the third quarter, giving Chinese producers a big incentive to export, but they have retreated by almost 29 percent since the start of October.

The extremely high figure for October was likely explained by delayed exports from previous months, with the August figure of just under 30,000 tonnes coming in well below expectations, said Jackie Wang, an analyst at consultancy CRU in Beijing.

The arbitrage to export Chinese alumina to the international market was “very attractive” last month, she said.

China’s alumina imports stood at 50,000 tonnes in October, the customs data also showed, up from 30,000 tonnes in September.