Chinese alumina imports refresh four-year high in July, weigh on domestic price

China imported 417,263 tonnes of alumina in July, up 109% year on year from 200,000 tonnes in July 2019, according to Chinese customs data released on Tuesday August 25.

Alumina imports in July were also 1.3% or 5,310 tonnes higher than the 422,573 tonnes recorded in June, renewing June’s record for the highest monthly alumina imports since February 2016.

China has imported 2.33 million tonnes of alumina since the beginning of this year, up by 341.2% from the corresponding period in 2019.

Domestic alumina price under pressure
The latest data of Chinese alumina imports dealt a fresh blow to the domestic alumina market, which has been under pressure from little buying interest from end users.

“The China market has little momentum to move up after last week’s surge following Hydro’s disruption,” a Shanghai-based alumina analyst said. “Overall, the market has ample supply, and I heard northern China started to offer lower at 2,330 yuan per tonne, maybe it will show a confirmed downward trend soon.”

Fastmarkets’ assessment of the price for alumina, metallurgical grade, ddp China rose to 2,330-2,360 yuan ($337-341) per tonne on August 20, up by 40-50 yuan per tonne from 2,280-2,320 yuan per tonne the week before. The Chinese price was driven up by news Hydro had halted operations at the pipeline transporting bauxite from its Paragominas mine to its Alunorte alumina refinery last week. 

Prior to this uptick, the price had been on a downward trend since July 16, weighed down by increasing supply after a number of refineries resumed their idled capacities.

Fastmarkets will next assess the domestic China alumina price on Thursday August 27.

Chinese alumina price direction has been driven by its own fundamentals, even offsetting upward support from a relatively strong aluminum futures price on Shanghai Futures Exchange, sources said.

The Shanghai Futures Exchange front month aluminium price closed at 14,765 yuan per tonne on Wednesday, up 175 yuan per tonne from the previous day’s closing price of 14,590 yuan per tonne.

The price has maintained an upward trend since August 11 when it touched 14,315 yuan per tonne, albeit briefly dipping on Monday August 25.