BEIJING — China’s polysilicon imports via ports in Shandong province amounted to 2,883 tons for the first 11 months of 2014, an increase of 73.6 percent over the same period of 2013, according to data from Jinan Customs. These imports were valued at 440 million yuan (approx. US$70.4 million), up 89 percent from a year earlier, while the average import price was 154.7 yuan (approx. US$24.8) per kilogram, up 8.8 percent.
Imports in November alone hit 642 tons, an increase of 150 percent year-on-year. On a month-on-month basis, the figure represented an increase of 81 percent. Import value in November was 100 million yuan (approx. US$16 million), an increase of 180 percent, while the average import price was 151.6 yuan (approx. US$24) per kilogram, up 12.3 percent from a year earlier and 0.1 percent from a month earlier.
Shandong province’s ports have seen significant growth in polysilicon imports since September 2014, with November’s numbers hitting a historical high: during the month, polysilicon imports related to processing trade reached 342 tons, an increase of 120 percent year-on-year and accounting for 53.3 percent of the province’s total polysilicon imports during the same period. General trade imports were 300 tons, an increase of 200 percent year-on-year and accounting for 46.7 percent of the total.
During the reporting month, foreign-funded firms imported 342 tons of polysilicon via the province’s ports, rising 120 percent year-on-year and accounting for 53.3 percent of the total, while privately-run businesses imported 300 tons, rising 200 percent year-on-year and accounting for 46.7 percent of the total. The ports recorded polysilicon imports of 342 tons from Taiwan, rising 120 percent year-on-year and accounting for 53.3 percent of the total, while imports from South Korea were 300 tons, rising 200 percent year-on-year. Imports from the U.S. remain suspended.
The surge in China’s polysilicon imports was mainly due to the government’s decision to suspend polysilicon imports used for processing trade. On August 14, 2014, the Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Customs of China issued an announcement suspending the import of polysilicon for processing trade, stipulating that the contracts that had been approved by regulators could be executed during their current term but could not be extended or renewed.
Chinese polysilicon makers are accelerating capacity expansion, resulting in overcapacity across the industry. The country’s overall polysilicon production capacity is expected to top 300,000 tons a year within the next two years, while domestic consumption is expected to remain in the neighborhood of 160,000 tons, according to the China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA). For most small- and medium-sized manufacturers worldwide, the production cost for polysilicon exceeds $25/kilogram, while some leading and large-scale producers have reduced the cost to around $20/kilogram. In China, makers with 100,000 ton capacities have not yet achieved such a reduction in cost. Imported polysilicon would further aggravate the country’s overcapacity.
Furthermore, Chinese polysilicon makers lack core technologies and key equipment. At present, some polysilicon manufacturers in the U.S., South Korea, Japan and Germany have already adopted the Modified Siemens Process, which have an absolute cost advantage over Chinese counterparts.
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