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Two-thirds of the total, 2.08 million tonnes, was exported to the USA, historically the principal buyer of Brazilian pig iron.
This was slightly down from the 2.17 million tonnes the North American country took in 2011.
Exports to Taiwan reached 224,836 tonnes, an amount similar to the 226,143 tonnes in the previous year.
The Netherlands, China and Mexico ranked next on the list, respectively with 164,070 tonnes, 161,234 tonnes and 118,144 tonnes imported.
Despite the decrease in volumes for the full year, Brazilian pig iron exports actually recovered ground during the second half of 2012.
In the first half of the year, exports were down by 20%.
Between July and December, however, shipments totalled 1.46 million tonnes, up from 1.29 million tonnes in the corresponding period of 2011, according to figures calculated by Steel First.
Also, Brazilian pig iron makers increased their sales to non-traditional buyers in 2012, especially in Latin America.
Colombia, Argentina and Chile, for example, bought 31,370 tonnes, 30,145 tonnes and 29,520 tonnes respectively, up from 1,107 tonnes, 8,208 tonnes and 5,931 tonnes in 2011.
Shipments to Spain and South Korea also rose, respectively from 3,284 tonnes and 2,500 tonnes in 2011 to 41,243 tonnes and 34,078 tonnes in 2012.
But exports to Thailand and Turkey plunged from 89,971 tonnes and 66,592 tonnes to 16,588 tonnes and 2,000 tonnes respectively.
In terms of Brazil’s various states, Maranhão and Pará, both in northern Brazil, were the largest exporters of pig iron last year.
Maranhão shipped 1.13 million tonnes, up from 884,361 tonnes in 2011, while Pará recorded a fall from 1.13 million tonnes to 971,032 tonnes.
Shipments from Minas Gerais, in Brazil’s south-east, decreased to 1.01 million tonnes to 801,024 tonnes.
Espírito Santo and Mato Grosso do Sul also recorded falls, respectively from 141,339 tonnes and 53,306 tonnes to 105,960 tonnes and 12,120 tonnes.
Brazilian merchant pig iron makers exported a total of 3.02 million tonnes in 2012, down by 6.7% from 2011, according to figures from the country’s foreign trade ministry.