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BEIJING: China’s iron ore imports in the first two months of 2024 climbed 8.1% from the previous year, customs data showed on Thursday, as steelmakers restocked to meet production needs during and after the week-long Lunar New Year holiday break in February.

The world’s largest iron ore consumer brought in 209.45 million metric tons of the key steelmaking ingredient over the two-month period.

The number works out a monthly average of 104.73 million tons, versus a monthly average of 98.39 million tons in 2023, according to a Reuters calculation.

That compared to 100.86 million tons imported in December.

China combines import data for January and February into one release to smooth out the impact of the Lunar New Year holidays, which fall in either January or February every year.

Better-than-expected supply in a typically slow-shipment season and an extra day in February due to the leap year aided the annual rise in imports, analysts said.

Dalian iron ore slides as weak fundamentals dominate

Many buyers booked more cargoes in November and December, when iron ore prices were rising, for fear of higher prices ahead as they looked to meet production needs to build up raw material inventories ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday break and its impact on logistics and transport.

The anticipation of iron ore demand picking up along with seasonally stronger steel consumption in spring also led mills to buy greater volumes.

Higher imports contributed to a price slump and rising portside inventories in the January-February period, according to analysts.

Iron ore prices tumbled by 19% during the two-month period, while stocks at major ports climbed by more than 16% to 134.9 million tons by end-February, the highest since March 2023, data from consultancy Steelhome showed.

China’s exports of steel products grew 32.6% to 15.91 million tons in the first two months of the year versus the same period a year earlier, the customs data showed.

China’s imports of steel products between January and February dropped 8.1% on the year to 1.13 million tons.

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