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Stats: China’s monthly PP exports surpass imports for first time

by Thi Huong Nguyen -
  • 24/04/2024 (09:40)
According to data obtained from ChemOrbis Stats Wizard, China’s total PP exports hit a record high for monthly volume in March. Imports rebounded following consecutive decreases over the first two months of the year. Nevertheless, the rise in PP imports lagged behind exports, marking the first time since ChemOrbis started gathering data in 2000 that exports of PP outpace imports.


Exports exceed imports on month, set record on quarter

China’s total PP exports in March witnessed a significant jump of 88% year over year and 87% month over month to reach 315,450 tons, the highest monthly volume on record. PP imports rose by 30% when compared to last month to be reported at 310,680 tons in March, but the figure slid by around 9% from a year earlier.

The top destinations for Chinese PP were Vietnam (49,530 tons), Brazil (29,070 tons), and Bangladesh (24,570 tons) in March. Meanwhile, South Korea remained the top PP supplier to China with 60,070 tons, followed by Singapore (53,520 tons) and the United Arab Emirates (41,000 tons).

In the meantime, data also reveals that China’s cumulative PP exports in the first quarter of 2024 hit an all-time high of 619,370 tons. On the contrary, the quarterly import volume ranked the lowest since Q4 2008, standing at 886,480 tons.

Chinese PP wins home game

Along with the turnaround season in the Middle East and shipping turmoil, which have impacted the quantity of PP imported into China, Chinese buyers’ preference of local materials over imports has also contributed to a weaker import scenario.

ChemOrbis Price Index data shows local homo-PP raffia and inj. and PPBC inj. have traded below import materials since the beginning of March, mainly due to a supply overhang at home. Competitive prices inside the country attract more buyers to shift their focus to domestic markets.

Besides, the aspect of quality is being considered. Market participants claim that there is little difference between domestic and import PP in terms of quality, which encourages more demand for locally produced materials and adds to the faltering appetite for imports at the same time.

Looking ahead, China’s import PP markets are expected to continue shrinking in tandem with domestic competition and capacity additions.

Exports grow across major outlets despite demand concerns

A persistent weakness in demand has prevailed across global PP markets under the shadow of a weak economy, weighing on China’s export activities. An exporter said, “PP exports from China are facing a slowdown given weakening demand from key destinations, including Southeast Asia. Subdued demand during the Ramadhan holidays further exacerbated this slowdown.” Despite these challenges, Chinese sellers have been able to divert growing volumes of shipments into export destinations that provide better netbacks.

In 2023, Vietnam retained its position as the top buyer of Chinese PP, purchasing 205,000 tons, accounting for roughly 15.6% share of the export PP market of the country. This level indicated a 4.3% increase in market share from 2022.

Indonesia emerged as the second destination for Chinese-origin PP, while its market share of 7.2% rose by 2.5% when compared to 2022. Bangladesh, meanwhile, remained China’s third biggest PP importer, experiencing a comparatively smaller gain in market share of 1.9% in 2023. Brazil ranked fourth with 6.9% of the market share, showing a tiny difference of 0.1% from Bangladesh.

Looking at the first quarter of this year, export volume to these top four outlets all indicated visible increases of 54-87% when compared to the same period last year. Notably, Brazil became China’s second top PP buyer in Q1 with a total market share of 9%, while no country could dethrone Vietnam from the first position.

Capacity additions: One step closer to be a net-exporter

In fact, China is still the world’s leading PP buyer. However, statistics clearly suggest that the country is on the brink of self-sufficiency, with the possibility of becoming a net exporter in global PP markets not far off.

According to ChemOrbis Production News Pro, PP markets in China are expected to welcome an additional capacity of over 7 million tons by the end of this year if everything goes as planned. Meanwhile, around 5.2 million tons of PP capacity were scheduled to come onstream throughout 2023 in the country.
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