The inevitable has happened.
For some months now, copper industry experts in India have been predicting India would become a net importer of copper during this fiscal year.
Well, that has happened.
For the first time in 18 years, India turned into a net copper importer. The primary factor behind the shift is the permanent closure of Sterlite’s 400,000 ton per annum smelter in South India from May 2018.
Two other major players, along with Sterlite, dominated primary copper production in India: state-owned Hindustan Copper and privately held Hindalco Limited. With Sterlite gone from the picture, there is now a shortfall of almost 40% between supply and demand.
The Times of India quoted Urvisha Jagasheth, research analyst at CARE Ratings, saying in a report that domestic production of refined copper had grown at a CAGR of 9.6% during fiscal years 2014-2018. Production fell by 46.1% during FY 2019 due to the Sterlite closure.
Faced with no other option, those requiring copper, like cathode ray tube producers, turned to importing refined copper.
During the nine months in FY 2019, India imported refined copper from Japan which accounted 71% of the country’s copper imports, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (7%), Singapore (6%), Chile (4%), South Africa (4%), Tanzania (3%), Switzerland (1%) and UAE (1%), the Financial Express reported.
Meanwhile, in the other direction, India exported refined copper to China (75%), Taiwan (10%), Malaysia (7%), South Korea (6%) and Bangladesh (3%) during the same period.
CARE said in an earlier report in the Business Standard that there was intense pressure from domestic buyers because of the increasing demand from the power sector, what with the Indian government’s emphasis on renewable energy. Soon, adding to this mix, manufacturers of hybrid and electric cars will also become major buyers of copper.
“We estimate domestic refined copper demand to increase by 7-8 per cent (including consumption of scrap) by the end of FY20,” the CARE report said.