BUSINESS Rising commodity imports signal strong Q1 GDP growth


Rising commodity imports signal strong Q1 GDP growth

Global Times

21:40, April 13, 2021

Iron ore. (Photo: VCG)

China's imports of raw materials and bulk commodities, including steel, crude oil and soybeans, saw a significant rise in the first quarter of this year, driven by a rapid economic recovery, according to official data on Tuesday.

The rising imports reflect booming demand in China's domestic market, which foreshadows promising economic growth figures for the first quarter, analysts said. However, rising prices also played a role in the surging imports.

In the first quarter of 2021, China's imports of iron ore went up by 8 percent to 283 million tons. Imports of crude oil increased 9.5 percent to hit 139 million tons.

Imports of major crops also spiked in the first quarter. Corn imports rose by 437 percent to 6.73 million tons, and wheat imports rose by 131.2 percent to 2.93 million tons. Soybean imports also grew by 19 percent to reach 21.18 million tons.

The jump in China's imports of bulk commodities was largely due to China's fast economic recovery and the resumption of global logistics, analysts said.

Accelerating production, starting in March, prompted rising demand for raw materials, Cong Yi, a professor at the Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"As China is speeding up its domestic vaccination process, a production recovery is widely anticipated by the markets," Cong noted, predicting that China's GDP in the first quarter grew 3-5 percent compared with the previous quarter and by a double-digit pace compared with the first quarter in 2019.

Some analysts have also predicted that China's GDP would grow by around 20 percent year-on-year in the first quarter. Official GDP data is due for release on Friday.

However, Li Kuiwen, spokesperson of the General Administration of Customs (GAC), also said that import rises can also be attributed to the fast increase of global commodity prices, which in turn were prompted by extraordinarily loose monetary and fiscal policies adopted by major economies such as the US.

As of March, the import price of iron ore had increased on a yearly basis for seven consecutive months, and the price of copper ore had increased for 11 months year-on-year. In March, the price of crude oil began to rise after 12 months of year-on-year declines.

Spot prices are seeing double-digit gains, while key futures prices have jumped significantly this year, in some cases by more than 50 percent compared with the same period last year.

The rising prices of commodities, which are often raw materials used in manufacturing, have also been putting heavy pressure on China's manufacturers.

The price surges for major materials are unlikely to stop until mid-year, Hong Shibin, deputy executive director of the marketing committee of the China Household Electrical Appliances Association, told the Global Times.

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