China’s Imports of Polymers, and, Exports of Fabricated Plastic Products Showed Relatively Small Declines in Q1 of 2020. Exports of PE and PP set new records in March.

Imports of commodity polymers totaled 6.8 million tons in the first quarter, down 5% from the same period, pre-Covid-19, in 2019. Exports of a basket of fabricated plastic products were down 3%, to 2.6 million tons.

Polyethylene is China’s largest volume polymer import at 4.4 million tons March YTD, down 3%. The steepest declines were on imports from sources within Asia-Pacific; these supplied 1.6 million tons, down 16%. Imports from the Middle East, the largest volume source, were down 3%, to 2.1 million tons.

Although volumes were much smaller, China’s polyethylene imports from North America increased by 41%, to 272,000 tons. And, imports from Eastern Europe jumped 254%, to 231,000 tons, mainly on much higher volumes of HDPE from Russia.

China imported 1.2 million tons of propylene polymers, down 1%. Imports of styrenic polymers were down 13%, to 826,000 tons. Vinyl polymer imports fell 7%, to 209,000 tons. Imports of PET were down by 30%, to 128,000 tons; exports of PET fell 23%, to 771,000 tons.

Although volumes were much smaller than imports, China exported record high volumes of PE and PP in March, Hong Kong and Vietnam the top two export destinations among many.

China’s exports of fabricated plastic products picked up in March after a sharp drop in January and February. A total of 2.6 million tons of products were exported in the first quar, down 3%. Shipments of every product picked up in March, with new record highs on exports of film and sheet made from PE, PP, PVC and PET.

From International Trader Publications’ China Polymer Trade Report, a monthly analysis of China’s trade in all commodity and recycle polymers and key fabricated plastic products.