China exports more than 2 million tonnes of stainless flats in 2013

Chinese exports of flat stainless steel products in December rose 22.1% month-on-month, on robust demand from key Asian customers, while volumes for the year breached the 2 million-tonne mark.

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The country shipped a total of 208,340 tonnes of material during the month, compared with 170,584 tonnes in November, according to the latest figures from Chinese customs.

Volumes were also up 33.5% year-on-year.

Shipments to China’s main customer Taiwan rose 43% month-on-month to 76,961 tonnes in December. Volumes were also up 32% from the same period a year ago.

Shipments to South Korea also surged to 39,994 tonnes, up 39.9% month-on-month and up 66.7% year-on-year.

December shipments were mostly booked in late October and November, at a time when demand from these key consumers was healthier.

“Our December sales were much better than November, but buying activities slowed down again in January,” a Shandong-based distributor said.

Increased demand from Taiwan and South Korea pushed Chinese stainless flats exports past the 2 million-tonne level in 2013, with volumes up 35.5% on the year.

The country exported a total of 2.06 million tonnes of stainless flat products over the year, compared with 1.52 million tonnes in 2012, according to Chinese customs data.

Taiwan received 720,900 tonnes of stainless flats from China in 2013, up 50.9% on an annual basis.

South Korea accounted for 345,823 tonnes of China’s export total for the year, up 45.4% from volumes in 2012.

A sluggish domestic market has also forced Chinese stainless mills to focus their efforts on the export market, market participants said.

Prices of 300-series stainless products fell by 16% during 2013.

“Given the weak state of the domestic market for most of last year, mills have had to expand their export volume to offset their higher output,” a north China-based distributor said.

“Our prices are quite competitive compared with other distributors in China, but still not as good as mills’ ex-works prices, which are heavily discounted to secure bookings,” he said.