Japan Copper Tube Import Not Increases as Expected for Jan-Apr

Japanese copper tube import is not increasing as expected in 2012. The import volume decreased by 14% to 1,514 tonnes in April from a year earlier, which represented year-to-year minus for 4 straight months, according to the trade statistics announced by Ministry of Finance on May 30. Japanese copper tube import expanded in 2011. Concerned sources forecasted the import volume would increase more in 2012 due to production downsizing by domestic copper tube makers. However, the effect seems very limited at present.

Hitachi Cable terminated domestic copper tube production at the end of March 2012. Domestic copper tube supply tightened and, a source of Japanese copper tube maker suggested, import of common grade products would increase mainly from Chinese manufacturers such for plain copper tube applied to air conditioners.

In April, copper tube import more than doubled to 205 tonnes from Thailand compared with a year earlier. Japanese major copper tube maker increased the import from its Thai factory to cover the supply tightness in Japan.

Copper tube orders maintained strong in 2011 since the users’ inventories significantly decreased due to hot summer in 2010. The major earthquake in March 2011 also stimulated supply shortage concerns and accelerated Japanese copper tube import. The import hit the very high volume in 2011 compared with usual years.

The current import seems not so strong from Chinese and South Korean copper tube makers despite of Hitachi Cable’s business withdrawal. Meanwhile, copper tube inventories at the users and the wholesalers are decreasing. Japanese copper tube makers had offered the users to make orders in advance in the non-demand season of 4Q 2011. Copper tube wholesalers also increased their inventories, concerned on the supply shortage.