NEW YORK The recent surge
in U.S. silicon imports from Thailand has sparked questions on
the materials origin, with traders claiming it could be
Chinese material that is being rebagged to avoid anti-dumping
duties rather than solely due to increased Thai production.
Imports from Thailand, not a
typical supplier to the U.S. market, more than tripled in
January to 1,813 tonnes from 520 tonnes in December after zero
shipments were logged in the preceding two months, according to
data from the International Trade Commission.
Based on ITC data, it marks the
highest import level from the country in at least 12 years.
The jump in imports, coupled
with excess domestic supply, has led U.S. free-market silicon
prices to drop an average of 4.1 percent over the past two
weeks to $1.28 to $1.32 per pound from $1.34 to $1.37
previously (AMM, April 3) and nearly 12 percent below
the early January range of $1.45 to $1.50 per pound.
Most participants are skeptical
that all of the Thai silicon entering the U.S. market is, in
fact, made in Thailand. Many say they believe a
significant chunk of the material is Chinese metal rebagged in
Thailand to avoid anti-dumping duties against Chinese product,
which range from 3.3 percent to 139.49 percent, an ITC
"It certainly wouldnt be
surprising if that were the case," one trader told
If the material being imported
from Thailand is made in China, sources say domestic producer
Globe Specialty Metals Inc. wont wait long to step
"If theres any indication
that (the material) is something other than metal produced in
Thailand, Im sure (Globe) will address it," the trader
"That will be an interesting
conversation (for Globe) when that comes up," another industry
But sources cited other factors
contributing to the drop in prices, specifically the fact that
New York-based Globe is running flat out after completing some
routine maintenance work on silicon plants that were shut down
late last year. Market participants felt at the time that it
was more of an effort to boost prices (AMM, Oct.
Globe did not respond to a
request for comment.
Last year, imports from Thailand
peaked in August at 1,530 tonnes, with all remaining months
ranging from 360 tonnes to 990 tonnes, the ITC data show.
"It seems like (Thailand) has
one big month and then backs off so nobody pays attention to
it," the industry source said. "But it definitely doesnt
help (prices). Thats a lot of metal. Silicon is such a
small, specialized industry, so 1,800 tonnes is important. If
youre someone like Globe, thats a furnace and a
Similiarly, imports from
Thailand were recorded in just six months of 2010peaking
in June at 1,080 tonnes while the other months ranged between
180 and 742 tonnes. Zero imports were recorded in the remaining
six months of 2010.
Prior to that, ITC recorded no
imports from Thailand since at least 2000.
While imports from traditional
suppliers such as Brazil continue to hit U.S. shoresin
January, 4,883 tonnes of silicon arrived from the country, up
from Decembers 4,545 tonnessources are more
concerned about the uptick in material from Thailand.
However, not all participants
felt the Thai material was Chinese silicon.
"I met with the guy representing
the Thai material, and he swore up and down to me its not
re-bagged Chinese, that its absolutely legit," a second
trader said. "I assume he knows what hes doing. He seemed
confident there wouldnt be any issues."