UPDATE 2-China March copper imports rise 25% from year ago on firm demand

* Unwrought copper imports +25% y/y in March at 552,317 tonnes

* First-quarter imports +11.9% y/y at 1.44 mln tonnes

* March copper ore imports at record 2.17 mln tonnes; aluminium exports at 443,484 tonnes (Updates with bullets, analyst comment, background)

April 13 (Reuters) – China’s March copper imports rose 25% from a year earlier, customs data showed on Tuesday, amid increasing demand for the metal and as arrivals climbed after logistics issued were resolved.

Arrivals of unwrought copper and products totalled 552,317 tonnes last month, the General Administration of Customs said.

That was up from 441,926 tonnes in March 2020, when China’s economy was starting to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, and up 34.7% from a 13-month low of 410,040 tonnes in February.

China is the world’s biggest copper consumer. Manufacturing expanded at a faster-than-expected pace in March after a lull over the Lunar New Year holiday, while activity in the copper-intensive construction sector also increased amid warmer temperatures.

Copper imports in the first quarter totalled 1.44 million tonnes, up 11.9% year-on-year, and the highest first-quarter amount since at least 2008, according to Reuters data.

He Tianyu, China copper demand analyst at CRU Group, said the gains followed the smoothing out of pandemic-induced crunches in international maritime logistics capacity and stronger demand.

“(Logistics) capacity constraints eased in March, so there was some growth from January and February. The capacity problem has not yet been fully resolved, so some lagging goods will continue to enter China in the future,” he said.

“China’s copper demand is growing at a positive year-on-year rate as the overseas outbreak has not fully recovered and some overseas order demand has shifted to China for production and processing.”

March imports of copper concentrate, or partially processed copper ore, were 2.17 million tonnes, the highest on record. Imports were up 22% from 1.779 million tonnes a year earlier, and up 20.5% from 1.8 million tonnes in February.

First-quarter shipments of concentrate, the supply of which is very tight globally, were up 7.4% year-on-year at 5.96 million tonnes. That is the highest first-quarter amount since at least 2008, Reuters data showed.

China’s exports of unwrought aluminium and aluminium products fell 14.5% year-on-year to 443,484 tonnes in March, customs said.

That was up 18.8% from 373,349 tonnes in February, which was the lowest in eight months.

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