International steel traders have noted a marked uptick in Chinese steel import activity over the past two to three weeks, despite bulging domestic steel inventories.
Chinese buyers actively imported steel from around the world, post the COVID lockdown. A Singapore-based agent for a European headquartered steel trading firm noted that “business is exceptionally quiet as most countries are in lockdown… but “China has been active and we’ve been importing into China in a big way again.”
Buyers in China have frequently swept up relatively low-priced cargoes of slab, billet, hot rolled coil, hot rolled plate, and even merchant pig iron from sellers looking to liquidate inventories. Chinese firms were willing to purchase an increased number of steel consignments from the seaborne market given that prices are lower than local production and that it has become “a dumping ground”.
Domestic steel mills in China are facing ferrous scrap shortage. Vice president of the China Association of Metal Scrap Utilization (CAMU) Li Shubin has urged the central government to lift ferrous scrap import bans as many domestic steel mills, particularly electric arc furnaces, cannot secure sufficient volumes locally due to the outbreak of COVID-19.