SHANGHAI Chinese ferrochrome and chrome ore imports rose in March, but theyre likely to decline in April as prices in the domestic market fall.
Inbound shipments of high-carbon ferrochrome totaled 157,126 tonnes last month, up 19.4 percent from February but down 6.8 percent from March last year, according to Chinese customs data. March imports of 956,754 tonnes of chrome ores and concentrates were up 29.1 percent from the previous month and 26.1 percent higher than a year earlier.
"These cargoes were booked in late January or early February during the period of winter restocking by steel mills," a Shanghai-based analyst said. "I expect imports this month will be lower."
Chinese stainless steel mills sharply reduced their domestic purchase prices for ferrochrome in late March and April, leaving the Chinese market isolated from international markets.
Spot prices of high-carbon ferrochrome were between 7,000 and 7,100 yuan per tonne, equivalent to 84 to 86 cents per pound of chrome, at the end of last week, well below the Metal Bulletin charge chrome index of 92 cents.
Given the huge price difference, traders and importers have suspended purchases of imported material over the past three weeks.
South Africa was the top exporter of ferrochrome to China in March, supplying 73,775 tonnes, up 22.8 percent from the previous month but down 36.1 percent from a year earlier. South Africa also was the largest supplier of chrome ore, shipping 497,108 tonnes to China last month, up 31.1 percent from February and 22.2 percent from March 2012.
Kazakhstan was the second-largest supplier of ferrochrome and chrome ore to China in March.
A version of this article was first published by AMM sister publication Metal Bulletin.