The Coal Trader

Coal News for Mining & Investing Professionals

China March iron ore imports edge up, steel exports near 8-year high

China’s iron ore imports in March rose about 0.5% from a year earlier, customs data showed on Friday, amid expectations that demand will pick up after the Lunar New Year holiday break as steelmakers typically ramp up production.

The world’s largest iron ore consumer brought in 100.72 million metric tons of the key steelmaking ingredient last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed. That compares with 97.51 million tons imported in February and 100.23 million tons in March 2023.

The relatively high level of imports were probably driven by expectations steel mills would resume production in March, which would then push up ore demand, said Chu Xinli, a Shanghai-based analyst at China Futures. But demand was much weaker-than-expected last month, which together with the high imports contributed to a pick-up in portside stocks and a steep drop in prices.

Iron ore inventories at major Chinese ports rose 5.3% to 142.1 million tons by the end of March, the highest since late February 2023, while ore prices tumbled over 13%, data from consultancy Steelhome showed.

China’s iron ore imports in the first quarter of 2024 totalled 310.13 million tons, up 5.5% from a year earlier, customs data showed.

“Fewer weather-related disruptions on shipments from major suppliers Australia and Brazil also played a role in high imports,” Pei Hao, a Shanghai-based analyst at international brokerage FIS, said.

Imports in April will likely rise further on a monthly and an annual basis, Pei added.

“Seaborne cargoes in late March and the first half of April remained at a relatively high level, and this may mean that it’s hard to see a big reduction in import volumes this month.”


With domestic demand not recovering as much as expected, China’s exports of steel products rose by 25.35% in March year on year to 9.89 million tons, the highest since July 2016. The March volume brings the total in the first quarter to 25.8 million tons, the highest for the period since 2016 and a rise of 30.7% year on year, customs data showed.

China’s imports of steel products in March declined by 9.26% to 617,000 tons, with the total for January-March falling 8.6% year-on-year to 1.75 million tons.

By Amy Lv and Andrew Hayley, Rueters