China April copper imports fall 12.2% on month as high prices deter purchases

China’s copper imports in April fell from the previous month, customs data showed on Friday, as a rally in prices for the metal to the highest levels in a decade made purchases less appealing.

Arrivals of unwrought copper and products into China, the world’s biggest copper consumer, totalled 484,890 tonnes last month, the General Administration of Customs said. That was down 12.2% from 552,317 tonnes in March and up 5.1% from April 2020.

April copper imports, though lower from March, rose year-on-year as delays in shipping and logistics caused by a shortage of cargo containers and high shipping fees started to ease, said CRU Chinese copper analyst He Tianyu.

“From mid April this issue started to ease because there were more cargo coming to the Chinese market. But in early April there were still some delays in logistics especially from South America, Japan and South Korea.”

He said shipments delayed from January-February were arriving in March and April, and May arrivals might remain high as well, with imports returning to 2019 levels from June.

In April, activity in China’s copper-intensive manufacturing sector, grew at a slower pace than expected as rising costs weighed on production.

The data on import drop came as benchmark London copper prices hit a record high on Friday. Prices rose 11.8% in April, hitting a 10-year high over $10,000 a tonne towards the end of the month on signs that continued economic stimulus amid the coronavirus pandemic could see demand outstrip supply.

April imports of copper concentrate, or partially processed copper ore, totalled 1.921 million tonnes, down from March’s record 2.171 million tonnes, and down 5.3% from 2.029 million tonnes in April 2020.

Meanwhile, China’s exports of unwrought aluminium and aluminium products were 437,285 tonnes in April, customs said.

That was down 1.4% from 443,483.7 tonnes in March, as Shanghai aluminium prices at decade highs discouraged overseas consumers from buying expensive Chinese metal.

Exports of aluminium in April were also up 0.9% year-on-year.

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