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STATS: China’s H1 polymer imports lowest since 2017, exports at a record-high

by Manolya Tufan - mtufan@chemorbis.com
by Esra Ersöz - eersoz@chemorbis.com
  • 01/08/2022 (10:25)
According to ChemOrbis Stats Wizard, China’s cumulative polymer imports in the first half of 2022 posted a yearly decrease of 14% to be reported at about 9.6 million tons, the lowest H1 volume since 2017. Exports, on the other hand, rose 26% on year to hit an all-time-high of 4.8 million tons.

Not only China’s increased
self-sufficiency particularly in PP, PVC and PET but also slowing exports of end products from China played a key role in reducing the world’s second biggest economy’s polymer imports. Meanwhile, China was seen boosting polymer exports considering weak demand at home amid persisting Covid-19 lockdowns.

As can be seen in the below graph, China’s imports are still greater than its exports. However, the disparity between imports and exports started to scale down owing to growing domestic capacities and China’s export ability.

Saudi Arabia still ranks the top import supplier

Regarding the origins that are at the top of China’s overall polymer imports list, Saudi Arabia ranked as the first with around 1.5 million tons in the first six months of the year. When compared to the same period of 2021, polymer imports from Saudi Arabia decreased by around 8%.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia was followed by South Korea (1.3 million tons), theUnited Arab Emirates (1.2 million tons) and Iran (1.04 million tons).

China –Exports–Imports

LLDPE imports show the steepest decline

In product-based breakdown, LDPE imports to China declined by around 8% on the year in H1 2022 to be reported at 1.4 million tons. LLDPE imports fell by 19% to 2.1 million tons during the same period. Imports for HDPE stood at 2.9 million tons, down by 12% from the same period of 2021. Saudi Arabia was the main supplier of LLDPE and HDPE, while Iran became the top LDPE supplier in the first six months of 2022.

China’s June PE exports more than double on year

In June, China’s overall PE exports surged by 147% on the year to hit a record high at 103,300 tons. Cumulative PE exports in the first half of 2022 rose by 25% from last year to around 350,000 tons. Although it is a quite small amount with respect to imports, ChemOrbis Stats Wizard still suggests a record-high for PE exports.

PPH imports lowest since 2008, exports at a record

PPH imports to China fell by 16% from the first half of 2021 to 1.3 million tons, marking the lowest volume since 2008. South Korea was the main exporter of PPH in H1 2022. Copolymer imports dropped more than 6% at 654,980 tons, with Singapore being the top exporter.

China’s Q2 PPH exports soared by around 125% from last quarter to hit a record high at 554,890 tons, as a side note.

Q2 PVC imports see record low; exports record high

Overall PVC imports were also down by 12% from last year in H1 2022 to 150,210 tons. This indicated the lowest volumes of imports in the past 22 years, according to ChemOrbis Stats Wizard. Taiwan and Japan remained the top two suppliers of PVC, while the US ranked third on the list.

Meanwhile, China’s PVC exports hit a record high in the second quarter at around 767,000 tons after soaring by 62% from Q1 2022.

PET bottle exports exceed 1 million tons to reach all-time highs

PET bottle imports rose only marginally in the first half of the year to 29,290 tons. South Korea remained the top exporter to China.

China’s exports in the second quarter reached beyond 1 million tons, the highest since ChemOrbis started to compile data in early 2000s. Quarterly exports soared by nearly 50% from the same period of last year.

Styrenics imports also decline y-o-y

Cumulative imports for GPPS and HIPS slumped by 32% from H1 2021 to 261,000 tons. As for ABS, imports for the first half stood at 603,960 tons, down by 15% on the year.
Taiwan remained on top of the list of the major PS and ABS suppliers to China.

China Q2 GDP growth slower than expected amid lockdowns

Global economic downturn was blamed for China’s reduced resin requirements, while capacity additions and slowing demand at home also kept imports limited between January-June this year.

China’s economic growth slowed in the second quarter, suggesting a small increase of 0.4% from last year following a 4.8% growth in Q1. This figure also missed analysts’ growth expectations.

A slower-than-expected GDP growth was attributed to the COVID-19 lockdowns that hit factories and consumer spending.

China has been under some form of a relentless lockdown since the end of the first quarter, with Shanghai’s two-month lockdown peculiarly having a crippling effect on trading. The Chinese government sticks to its Covid zero policy, resulting in movement restrictions, mass testing and a closed-loop system at factories. A district of Wuhan has been locked down recently for the first time since 2020, meanwhile.

Lingering impact of the pandemic-related restrictions will put a cap on the recovery, not to mention concerns over exports to the rest of the world amid rampant inflation and a subdued property market. Both internal and external headwinds put China’s growth target of 5.5% for the year at risk.
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