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CISA: speculators and small mills push up
China's iron ore imports       Updated:2009-05-14 19:19

BEIJING, May 14 (Xinhua) -- The head of the China Iron and Steel Association on Thursday blamed speculators and strong demand from the small steel mills for pushing iron ore imports to a record high in April.

Iron ore imports in April reached 57 million tonnes, up 9.45 percent month on month and 33 percent over the same period last year. Imports in January-April period rose 22.9 percent year on year to 188 million tonnes, according to General Administration of Customs data released Tuesday.

Officials with the CISA believe traders and small steel plants played a major role in pushing up imports.

Traders presented intentions of stockpiling imported iron ore with expectations that prices would rise, said Shan Shanghua, secretary general of the CISA, on Thursday.

Customs data showed that six of the top 10 iron ore importers in the first quarter were traders, compared with an average of two or three.

The CISA said on Wednesday it would launch an investigation into the iron ore importers, and the findings were expected to come out next week.

Excessive imports would stretch steel makers' capital, and increase their operating risks, said Shan.

According to the data on www., iron ore stocks at China's main ports exceeded 80 million tons by May 8, bringing total stocks to more than 100 million tons, of which steel plants held 30 million tonnes.

Small and medium-sized steel plants purchased iron ore overseas at low prices, said CISA.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued an emergency circular on May 12, ordering commercial banks to halt or reduce loans to steel mills seeking to boost capacity without considering market demand.

The circular also required authorities to research measures to control the number of steel traders, and further monitor the volume and flow direction of imported iron ore, and to crackdown on the stockpiling and selling of iron ore at high prices.