India’s iron ore exports at a three year high at 47.8 MT

India’s iron ore exports stood at 47.8 million tonne (MT) for FY24, the highest in three years; and the second highest in six years, driven primarily by strong demand from China.

Reports across some key ministries and trade sources indicate a 130 per cent rise in iron-ore exports YoY, driven by a strong demand for fines and lumps (at 37 MT and over 100 per cent rise in demand).

China accounted for over 90 per cent of the purchase of this key raw material, used primarily in steel-making. Outbound shipments was 43.20 MT.

Exports to other countries were less than 1 MT, with Indonesia reporting the second highest export of 0.91 MT, last fiscal.

India mainly exports low-grade fines, with pellets accounting for about 24 per cent of total shipments (or 11.32 MT).

Iron ore demand in FY23 was 21.28 MT, while in FY22 it was 26.40 MT, as per data collated by consultancy firm, BigMint (formerly SteelMint). Over the last six years highest iron ore exports were reported in FY21 which was at 60.15 MT.

“There is also a low base effect primarily because a six month long export duty had hit overseas sales last fiscal. In general there was good demand from China for most part of the fiscal. But over the last two months, February & March there has been some decline in demand, ” a trade source told businessline.

Sequential Decline

Chinese steelmakers booked significant volumes of iron ore and pellets during the fourth quarter of 2023. As a result, Indian exports were quite high until January 2024, moving up from 3.41 MT in September and increased t 6.29 MT in December. It peaked in January.

Post a 6.63 MT export in January – highest for the fsical, outbound shipments have dropped for two consecutive months – in February and March.

February sales stood at 5.18 MT, down 22 per cent sequentially (over January), while for March it further slipped to 3.60 MT (down 31 per cent sequentially and down 45 per cent over January peaks).

“Over the past two months, China has been facing a decline in domestic demand for steel, which has led to a reduction in the demand for raw materials by steelmakers. In February – March months, demand slowed due to sufficient stocks and holiday periods.,” the trade source said.

The Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) in a recent letter to the Steel Ministry pointed out that “no fresh orders are forthcoming from the international buyers”.

“In absence of demand from the international market, there is huge availability of low-grade iron ore and pellets in the country. In case of pellets, fresh movement has virtually dried up and whatever little exports are taking place in the month of March 2024 is of material already lying at the ports,” it said.

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