China's iron ore imports on track to top 1 billion tonnes; India shipments surge

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 25, 2016 15:04 hrs
A worker carries a container filled with drinking water at a railway coal yard on the outskirts of Ahmedabad

By Manolo Serapio Jr

MANILA (Reuters) - China's iron ore imports from India surged in October and purchases from Australia grew slightly, data showed on Friday, with total shipments to the world's top buyer of the steelmaking commodity on course to top 1 billion tonnes this year.

Shipments from Australia, which account for nearly two-thirds of China's imports, rose 3 percent to 49.89 million tonnes last month, according to China's official customs data. Shipments from No. 2 supplier Brazil increased 17 percent to 17.88 million tonnes.

China's total iron ore imports were 80.8 million tonnes in October, the lowest since February, but the biggest volume ever for the month of October.

That brought total imports to 843.31 million tonnes in January to October, up 9 percent from a year earlier, and on track to top last year's 952.84 million tonnes.

"We can easily see over 1 billion tonnes for the full year. I don't think there's any disruption from the production side overseas," said Helen Lau, analyst at Argonaut Securities. Lau has forecast a 9 percent increase in China's iron ore imports to 1.038 billion tonnes this year.

Imports from India reached 1.02 million tonnes last month, up sharply from 75,565 tonnes a year ago. For January to October, shipments from India surged eight-fold to 11.4 million tonnes.

India used to be the third-biggest supplier of iron ore to China until mining bans in recent years and higher taxes curbed output and exports. India's Supreme Court lifted the mining ban in top iron ore exporting state Goa in 2014 and fresh mining began months after.

"Indian shipments are rising due to better prices," said Dhruv Goel, managing partner at consultancy SteelMint. India's total iron ore exports have exceeded 15 million tonnes in January to October and may reach 17 to 18 million tonnes for the full year, he said.

(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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