China’s nickel ore imports fell to their lowest level in two years in February, as Indonesia’s ban on exports of unprocessed minerals took effect in January.

China imported 3.58 million tonnes of nickel ore last month, down 50.8% month-on-month and 8.7% lower than imports in the same period last year, according to Chinese customs data.

Shipments from Indonesia were down 49.4% month-on-month to 3.1 million tonnes in February. They were 2.5% lower than volumes sent in 2013.

“These cargoes were bought in early January before the ban was implemented,” an importer said.

On January 12, Indonesia banned minerals exports in a bid to facilitate in-country processing.

Imports from the Philippines were down 56% from January levels to 475,635 tonnes last month as the rainy season commenced in the country.
Volumes shipped from the Philippines were down 31.5% year-on-year.

Refined nickel
Refined nickel imports in February plunged 57% month-on-month to 7,856 tonnes, down 40.1% year-on-year.

“The drop is in line with our expectation. Business is very poor in the domestic market after nickel prices in London increased rapidly,” a nickel trader said, adding, “Local demand is weak and the import tax imposed by China in January has increased traders costs.”

Ferronickel imports in the month stood at 26,865 tonnes, down 11% from January volumes but nearly twice the volumes from a year ago.