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China’s April PE imports fall to around 1 million tons, lowest since 2018

by Pınar Polat -
  • 29/05/2023 (02:38)
Data from ChemOrbis Import Statistics show that China’s PE imports in April decreased by 13% from the previous month to around 1 million tons. This indicated the smallest monthly volume since February 2018. Cumulative PE imports for January-April also suggest a big slump particularly for HDPE.

PE – China

Weaker consumer demand and decreasing total new orders were cited as the main reasons behind the weaker performance. Caixin China General Manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) also returned to the contraction zone after two months in April.

Apart from the impact of slow economic growth, the country’s PE markets have also been under downward pressure from weaker-than-expected demand recovery and increasing supply pressure amid new capacities, with LDPE prices suffering the most among the other grades.

China’s cumulative Jan-Apr PE imports down yearly

ChemOrbis data also suggest that China’s cumulative PE imports in the first four months of 2023 were 6% lower than the previous year at around 4.5 million tons.

In a product-breakdown, HDPE appears to have slumped considerably, logging the worst performance since 2014. LDPE imports were also at their lowest since 2018. On the contrary, China appears to have imported more LLDPE and mLLDPE during January-April when compared to the same period of last year. LLDPE imports were a tad higher than 2022 but still much lower than the 2021 record, but mLLDPE imports were at their all-time highs.

China’s top LDPE supplier Iran loses seat in April

April LDPE imports dropped visibly by 21% from a month earlier to stand at 222,990 tons. They were marginally higher than the same month of last year. ChemOrbis data also show that April volume was the smallest since January 2023.

The United States dethroned Iran and became China’s top LDPE supplier in April with 39,927 tons, followed by Iran (37,949 tons). While the United States’ April export volume to China remained largely stable from March, Iran’s share was down by 26% within the same period.

Middle Eastern producers’ polyolefin supply to China was impacted by a maintenance season in the region during Q1, resulting in lower volumes than usual. But still, LDPE film prices have been decreasing across the global markets including China, trading at par with HDPE film.

April HDPE imports lowest since Feb 2016

ChemOrbis data show that China’s HDPE imports in April which was around 365,000 tons marked the lowest monthly volume since February 2016. They decreased by 15% from March while they were also down about 11% yearly.

The United Arab Emirates was the top HDPE supplier of China in April with 74,905 tons, followed by Saudi Arabia (60,261 tons) and the United States (56,620 tons).

China’s LLDPE imports in April stay below 400,000 tons

After falling below to 400,000 tons in March, China’s LLDPE imports lost further ground in April and remained under the threshold.

China’s LLDPE imports were 8% lower on a month-over-month basis to be reported at 368,940 tons in April. Compared to the same month of 2022, however, they climbed by 6%.

The United States was the top LLDPE supplier to China in April with 103,300 tons, followed by Saudi Arabia (78,867 tons).

PE exports also fall after gaining ground in two months

After posting increases in the previous two months, China’s total PE exports in April also indicated a monthly decrease of around 17% from March at 90,520 tons. On yearly comparison, on the other hand, they were up by 34%.

While all grades were down monthly, China exported HDPE more than others in April at around 50,000 tons, followed by LDPE (around 22,000 tons) and LLDPE (around 18,000 tons).
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