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Stats: China’s 2023 PP imports lowest in 15 years, exports slowly grow

by Merve Sezgün -
  • 24/01/2024 (02:46)
According to data from ChemOrbis Stats Wizard, China’s total PP imports in 2023 plunged to their lowest point in the past 15 years, while the country’s exports continued a slow growth trend. The total PP imports for the year dropped by 8% to slightly over 4.1 million tons, whereas exports increased by 3% to around 1.3 million tons.

S. Korea remains top supplier, but loses market share

South Korea, despite maintaining its position as China’s top PP supplier, witnessed a 24% decline in exports to China, resulting in a decrease in market share from 23% to 19%.

Singapore remained the second-largest PP supplier, with no notable changes in figures from the previous year. The United Arab Emirates secured the third position, experiencing a slight increase in market share to 14%.

China’s fading appetite for imports is no surprise, and it will continue

China’s reduced appetite for importing PP is attributed to significant domestic capacity additions, aligning with the country’s goal of achieving self-sufficiency.

According to ChemOrbis Production News Pro database, China added more than 5 million tons/year of PP last year. Plans are in motion to further expand production capacity , with an expected increase of 8.2 million tons/year in the current year and a projected total PP capacity of nearly 64 million tons/year by 2027.

It is important to note that China remains the world’s leading PP buyer even though its demand has gradually reduced particularly since the pandemic year of 2020. In the last decade, the country’s yearly average PP imports has stood at almost 5 million tons. The second largest PP buyer – Türkiye – imported around 2.3 million tons of PP last year. This is posing the question of how key PP suppliers will adapt when China’s demand undergoes changes.

What about exportation? Could China emerge as a significant provider of PP in the future?

The graph below illustrates China’s yearly PP imports vs exports since 2010.

Only looking at the yellow bar representing exports in this chart, it would not be wrong to assume that China’s PP exports will continue to grow. However, export growth has lost momentum particularly after the big jump recorded in the past two years. Despite the big capacity additions, exports are not too big to ring alarm bells in the industry yet. This is because there are some roadblocks ahead.

China – PP – exports – imports

Top destinations in 2023

Vietnam and its growing domestic production

Data highlight that Vietnam has consistently been China’s top PP customer since 2008. In 2021, Vietnam’s Chinese PP imports saw a yearly increase of 62% to reach 237,000 tons, setting a record. The following year faced a 40% drop in imports, yet in 2023, they jumped back to around 205,000 tons.

Although PP exports to Vietnam has increased over the years, it remains to be seen if Chinese suppliers can take up more share in the years to come amid Vietnam’s growing domestic capacity.

Indonesia and new import regulations

Last year, Indonesia ranked the second top buyer of Chinese PP with around 94,000 tons. In 2022, the country was not even among the top five. It is evident that Chinese sellers have shifted their focus towards Indonesia, but they are encountering trade obstacles due to Indonesia’s recent implementation of an annual quota system for polymer imports. This move is anticipated to restrict the volume of imports.

India was not among top five last year

2022’s second biggest customer of Chinese PP, India, was not even among the top five list last year. China’s exports to India fell 39% from a year earlier to around 65,000 tons in 2023. Instead, after Vietnam and Indonesia, Chinese PP headed to Bangladesh (92,000 tons), Brazil (90,000 tons), and Thailand (67,000 tons).

Lower exports to India were not because India’s PP imports dropped last year. Indeed, India’s demand for import PP continued to grow. In the first ten months of last year, India imported more than 1.5 million tons of PP, up from the previous year’s whole volume of 1.46 million tons.

Türkiye seems to be out of the picture in 2023

In 2023, Türkiye appears to have fallen off the radar. As the world’s second-largest PP buyer, the country was conspicuously absent from China’s export list for that year. Data indicate that China only sold a minimal quantity of 8,000 tons of PP to Türkiye in the past year, a significant decline from the 47,000 tons in 2022. Notably, in 2021, Türkiye held the position of China’s fourth-largest PP buyer, acquiring 82,000 tons.
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