By Stuart Burns
As China has imported less tin in the first quarter of this year -- down 38%, according to Reuters -- questions linger about the country's slowing rate of growth and level of internal stocks. Meanwhile, the ITRI reports Indonesian exports have increased over the first four months of this year compared to 2012, up 16.3% at 34,658 metric tons. Even so, producers don't believe the boom will continue, as lower prices and tighter quality requirements due to come into effect under new export regulations in July begin to take their toll.
Hidayat Arsani, president of the country's 30-member tin-mining association, is quoted by ITRI as saying that it is believed only about 15 to 20 smelters will be able meet the new regulations on tin purity, from the 35 companies who are currently licensed to export tin by the trade ministry. Still, the ITRI China International Tin Forum held in Kunming late last month held out some interesting risks and opportunities for the tin market in the years to come. Chinese producers are confident in the future direction of prices and demand for the simple reason that there aren't enough of them -- you know, producers.
Believing firmly in medium-term growth prospects for China's economy, domestic producer Yunnan Tin Group's general manager Gao Wenxiang is quoted by the ITRI as saying that per capita GDP is expected to double to US$12,000 in the current decade. Gao noted that China's refined tin production and consumption had doubled over the last decade, but there had been no growth in mine production and economic resources were limited. Gao concluded that "it is absolutely obvious that the supply of tin mines in China is far behind its own market requirement." But both China and global tin demand assume at least a constant on the side of consumption, and here there were some interesting developments.
For a tin forecast/outlook, check out Part 2.