May 03 2022
Russia's alumina imports from China rose sharply in March as the country sought to replace its two major suppliers Australia and Ukraine, which made up over two-thirds of its alumina inflows a year ago.
Russia purchased 9,950 mt of alumina from China in March, up from just 105 mt in the same period a year ago, the latest data from Chinese customs showed. China's alumina supplies to Russia were at 10,650 mt over January-March, compared with 330 mt in Q1 2021. The Q1 2022 volume from China was about five times higher than the whole of 2021.
S&P Global Commodity Insights assessed Chinese alumina at $445.770/mt ex-works April 29, down $6.78/mt on the day.
China's alumina supplies have helped partially offset a combined 275,000 mt/month that Russia imported from Australia and Ukraine prior to Ukraine's invasion on Feb. 24, with Rusal as the key recipient of the volumes, according to S&P Global estimates.
Rusal's Nikolaev refinery in Ukraine, which produced 1.77 million mt of alumina in 2021 and typically supplies its entire output to Rusal's Russian smelters, halted operations days after the Russian invasion.
Australia stopped exports of aluminum ores, including bauxite, alumina, and related products, to Russia on March 20 as part of its wider sanctions on the country. Australia was the second biggest alumina supplier to Russia after Ukraine in 2021 with volumes at 1.52 million mt.
"Between December 2021 and February 2022, Australia recorded approximately 422,000 mt [140,000-141,000 mt/month] of alumina exports to the Russian Federation, accounting for 10% of Australia's total exports, by weight, during this period," a representative of Australian foreign minister told S&P Global in an email on May 3.
The representative said Australia has banned both direct and indirect exports of aluminum ores to Russia. S&P Global estimates that the ban also likely affected possible Australian supplies to Rusal-owned refineries outside Russia, including the Aughinish alumina refinery in Ireland.
It is not known if Rusal has ramped up imports from other alumina producing countries, such as Kazakhstan, and Rusal-owned refineries in Ireland, Jamaica, and Guinea, which exported 26%, 36% and 70% of their alumina production, respectively, to Russia in 2021.
Rusal did not respond to S&P Global's request for comment. Russian Customs Service no longer publishes the country's foreign trade statistics.
Rusal has said it cut its May aluminum prices for domestic buyers by 9% month on month, in line with the London Metal Exchange. The LME aluminum spot price fell to roughly $3,040/mt April 29, from $3,480/mt April 1.