Russia bolsters copper sales to China, Turkey to offset decline in EU exports: S&P GMI

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In a manoeuvre to counterbalance the significant decline in copper exports to the European Union (EU), Russia has intensified its sales to China and Turkey, according to an analysis of data from S&P Global Market Intelligence’s (GMI) Global Trade Analytics Suite. The move comes amidst geopolitical tensions and economic shifts triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has disrupted trade dynamics and prompted Russia to seek alternative markets for its copper exports.

The analysis revealed that approximately half of the copper tonnage that Russia could no longer export to the EU, totalling around 238,600 metric tonnes, found new markets in China and Turkey. Notably, these two countries received 111,580 metric tonnes more than they did in 2022, indicating a significant surge in Russian copper imports. The decline in Russian copper exports to the EU was stark, with imports of refined copper plummeting by 79% in 2023, amounting to just 62,372 metric tonnes.

This sharp downturn contrasted sharply with previous years, where Russia supplied 36% of the EU’s refined copper imports, accounting for an average of 2,96,000 metric tons annually over the 2018-2020 period. The void left by Russia’s reduced exports to the EU was partially filled by increased imports from Chile and Peru, with an additional 2,92,720 metric tons of refined copper shipped to the EU from these South American countries.

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However, despite the surge in imports from other regions, the overall volume of copper imported by the EU declined by 20 per cent in 2023 to 673,100 metric tonnes amid an economic downturn. China emerged as a significant destination for Russian copper, with imports reaching 3,70,815 metric tons in 2023, marking a 14.4 per cent increase compared to 2022. Meanwhile, Turkey witnessed a notable uptick in Russian copper imports, which surged by 61 per cent year-on-year to 1,71,260 metric tonnes.

Russian copper accounted for over 41 per cent of Turkey’s total copper imports in 2023, up from 27 per cent in the previous year. While China and Turkey managed to absorb a substantial portion of the volume lost by Russia in EU exports, it remains unclear whether Russia succeeded in fully offsetting the decline, particularly given the lack of transparency in its international trade data following the invasion of Ukraine.

The shift in copper trade dynamics underscores Russia’s efforts to adapt to evolving geopolitical and economic circumstances while ensuring the stability of its copper export market.