As China’s overall high density PE (HDPE) imports fell to 2m tonnes in January-May 2023 from 2.5m tonnes during the same period last year, the US’s share of China’s import market jumped to 13% from 3%. Year-on-year imports from the US rose by 335% to 268,892 tonnes.
Asian Chemical Connections
CHINA’S imports from the US surge by 220% in January-May 2023 as local production falls by 11% and as imports decline from Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.
CHINA’S NET IMPORTS of HDPE could be either 126m tonnes in 2023-2040, 38m tonnes or as low as 7m tonnes
China’s LLDPE imports in February this year reached their highest level for that month on record – 499,168 tonnes.
This seems likely to have been overstocking on anticipation of the post zero-COVID bounce back that hasn’t happened, as imports in March April fell month-on-month by 6% and 7% respectively. January-April 2023 exports also reached 64,678 tonnes – 96% higher than last year.
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Early data suggest China PE demand growth in 2023 will follow the trend since 2021 of much, much lower growth.
A SCENARIO-BASED approach is essential to understand US PE exports in 2023, based on non-plant economic factors
The decline in container freight rates has opened the SEA PE market to more competition – pulling the region’s spreads closer to the record-low China levels
EVEN IF CHINA’S PE demand grows at 10% in 2023, with very strong growth in other regions, this year’s global capacity would still be 22m tonnes more than demand!
Global PE capacity in excess of demand is forecast to average 24m tonnes/year in 2022-2025, and to reach 26m tonnes this year
Operating rates are expected to average 81% in 2022-2025. This would compare with a 10m tonnes annual average capacityexceeding demand in 2000-2021 and an operating rate of 85%.