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China Jan-Feb nickel ore imports fall 5.1% y/y as Indonesia ban begins

China’s nickel ore imports in the first two months of 2020 fell 5.1% from a year earlier, according to Reuters calculations based on customs data released on Wednesday, as the ban on exports from top miner Indonesia came into force.

China imported 4.32 million tonnes of nickel ore in January and February combined, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs, versus 4.55 million tonnes a year earlier.

Customs said last month it would combine trade data for January and February instead of releasing it for individual months.

Volumes in January-February from Indonesia, whose ban on exports from Jan. 1 sparked a scramble for ore in late 2019, were down 18.1% year-on-year at 1.98 million tonnes as the last cargoes to be shipped arrived in China.

Arrivals from alternative supplier the Philippines meanwhile rose 39.6% year-on-year to 2.01 million tonnes.

Top Philippine miner Nickel Asia on March 16 warned of potential disruptions to shipments due to the coronavirus.

China’s imports of nickel pig iron, a raw material for stainless steel production, rose 60.8% from a year earlier to 473,059 tonnes, with arrivals from Indonesia – which are not subject to a ban – more than doubling to 403,575 tonnes.