US exports of polyethylene slumped from August through October 2020 in the aftermath of several hurricanes, then climbed back to record territory in December. Exports to China in January were up more than double from the prior January.
Imports of HDPE were 9.1 million tons in 2020, up 14% from the prior year; linear polymer as EAOC, 6.7 million tons, up 17%; LDPE, 3.4 million tons, down 1%; and EVA, 1.0 million tons, down 3%. Much higher volumes from North America and Eastern Europe and little growth in supplies from the Middle East were striking trends.
China’s imports of ethylene polymers dropped from a record high of 2.1 million tons in June to 1.8 million tons in August. Imports of propylene polymers fell from 840,000 tons in June, another record, to 580,000 tons. Despite the declines, imports YTD are up substantially for both polymer groups.
Economic recovery was apparent in the stunning surge in China’s imports of virtually every major grade of commodity polymer in June. Import volume for the month, 3.6 million tons, was unprecedented and raised China’s YTD import total to 15.9 million tons, up 8% from the first half of 2019.
Exports of ethylene polymers to China accounted for more than half of Singapore’s and Korea’s total exports in 2019 but shipments to China from both countries plummeted in January, and, especially, in February, the most current month available.