June 12 – One of the standout features of China’s commodity imports this year has been the surge in copper, which has taken place without a seemingly strong market narrative as justification.
Imports of unwrought copper climbed to 475,000 tonnes in May, according to customs data released on June 8, up 22 percent from the same month last year and the highest in 17 months. Imports for the first five months reached 2.15 million tonnes, up 16.7 percent on the same period in 2017.
It’s not just unwrought copper shipments that are booming, with imports of ores and concentrates up 14 percent in the January-May period to 7.8 million tonnes, the most for the first five months of a year since at least 2000.
When searching for reasons the obvious anchor is Beijing’s decision to ban the import of certain types of copper scrap, announced in April and scheduled to be implemented from the start of next year. However, it appears that the authorities are already limiting the importation of what is termed Category 7 copper scrap, which includes coiled copper cable and waste motors.
The volume of Category 7 copper scrap imports approved in the first 11 batches in 2018 has dropped 84 percent from the same period last year, consultants Wood Mackenzie said in a research note distributed last month.