UPDATE 1-China March iron ore imports jump 19% on rising shipments, firm demand

* March iron ore imports at 102.11 mln T

* Jan-March iron ore imports at 283 mln T vs 263 mln T year ago

* Steel products import rise 17% y/y in Q1 (Updates with details, analyst comment)

BEIJING, April 13 (Reuters) – China’s iron ore imports rose in March from relatively low levels a year earlier, customs data showed on Tuesday, with demand for the steelmaking ingredient underpinned by robust industrial activity.

The world’s biggest iron ore consumer brought in 102.11 million tonnes of the raw material last month, according to data from the General Administration of Customs, up 18.9% from March 2020.

In the first quarter, China imported 283.44 million tonnes of iron ore, up from 263 million tonnes over the same period last year.

“Iron ore imports just returned to a normal level from a relatively low base last year when shipments were affected by extreme weather in Australia and Brazil,” said Cai Biyu, analyst with GF Futures.

Demand for iron ore has been supported by robust steel consumption in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

Steel futures prices have surged to record highs of over 5,000 yuan ($763.58) per tonne and prompting demand for iron ore.

“Despite production curbs in Tangshan, mills in other places could replenish stocks on peak season demand,” said Cai.

China’s benchmark iron ore futures have risen for three consecutive trading sessions and jumped more than 3% on Tuesday.

STEEL TRADE

The customs data also showed that China exported 7.54 million tonnes of steel products and brought in 1.32 million tonnes last month.

In the first quarter, China’s steel exports rose 23.8% from a year earlier to 17.68 million tonnes.

Steel imports in the first three months of the year increased 17% on an annual basis to 3.72 million tonnes, according to the customs.

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