Sulphur prices in China remain under downward price pressure

04 April 2014 10:55 Source:ICIS News

LONDON (ICIS)--Sulphur prices in major importing region China remain under downward pressure as buyers continue to push for lower numbers, sources said on Friday.

“They keep pushing and pushing and won’t be happy until prices go to $100/tonne CFR (cost and freight),” said a trader selling to the Asian sulphur market.

Lower prices in China and a wait-and-see stance adopted by traders and phosphate producers across the region were compounded this week by a drop in monthly prices from Middle East producers. The Middle East is a major exporter of sulphur to China.

Qatar’s Tasweeq and UAE’s (United Arab Emirates) ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) both dropped their April prices by $43/tonne and $30/tonne, respectively.

This was preceded by third major producer Aramco moving its price down by $10/tonne to $180/tonne FOB (free on board).

Talking about the market situation in China, a trader said: “The news is confusing in China. Now we have three prices in the market from the same region.”

In relation to the impact of the lower export prices, a third trader said; “They [the Middle East producers] are making a correction based on the market - it's makes it more distabilised.

“Sentiment in China - buyers are all waiting and they will want to wait more. On the supply side, I don’t see any problems with availability. The market is  fairly balanced.”

Sulphur prices in China - which is the largest importer of sulphur in the world - were on an incline from September 2013 through to February 2014, due to market tightness stemming largely from the Middle East.

In September 2013, sulphur was valued at $80-90/tonne CFR. Having peaked mid-February 2014 at $185-215/tonne CFR, prices have since been falling as Chinese buyers retreated to the sidelines.

Spot sulphur in China is currently valued at $150-180/tonne CFR China.

By Julia Meehan