IN FIGURES: China’s battery raw materials imports in December 2020

A summary of China’s battery raw materials imports for December 2020.

In brief

  • Imports of cobalt metal rose amid a surge in import profits when the price in China started to rally in mid-December and the price in Europe was stable due to slow activities during the Christmas and New Year Day holidays.
  • Lithium carbonate imports continued to grow year on year amid strong demand from China, driven by cheaper import prices compared with that for domestic material, but it decreased on a monthly basis following strong buying since September.
  • Lithium hydroxide imports surged on both a monthly and annually basis due to healthy appetite for cheap materials, mainly from Russia, and because bullish market sentiment has eroded cheaper Chinese domestic supply.
  • Strong nickel sulfate market in China boosted demand for nickel intermediates, explaining the big year-on-year increase in imports. But limited supply made it difficult for buyers to source the feedstock and prevented growth on a monthly basis.
  • Flake graphite imports in December surged after significant contractions in October and November. A major source of flake graphite to China was Madagascar at 5,582 tonnes, up from 400 tonnes in November. Market sources believe that is due to the seasonal shipment arrangements; quarterly shipments stood at 7,236 tonnes, similar to total third-quarter shipments of 7,000 tonnes.

December imports

Cobalt concentrate

3,220 tonnes, down by 18.81% month on month, up by 22.67% year on year

Cobalt intermediates
30,444 tonnes, up by 0.17% month on month, down by 14.98% year on year

Cobalt metal
673 tonnes; up by 40.50% month on month, up by 199.11% year on year

Lithium carbonate
4,722 tonnes, down by 31.10% month on month, up by 70.22% year on year

Lithium hydroxide
149 tonnes, up by 2,028.57% month on month, up by 432.14% year on year

Nickel intermediates
45,735 tonnes, down by 17.1% month on month, and up by 160.3% year on year

Natural graphite in flake
5,868 tonnes, up by 1,261% month on month, down by 14.51% year on year

A summary of China’s battery raw materials exports for December 2020 can be found here.

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