Orders from China have eased on plastic and cardboard causing concern in the industry.
Cardboard prices have recently dropped by £20, knocking its value per tonne down to £60. MRW reported in March, when prices were £105-£110 a tonne, that experts predicted cardboard prices would fall by around £35-40. Plastics have also broadly experienced a “tail off” in prices over the past few weeks say experts.
Mark Lyndon managing director Paul Briggs said: “This is supposed to be the busy season in China. The rush for cardboard orders hasn’t happened yet and China has a very good inventory of OCC. Most mills have cut back on orders and price. Orders from China are very thin on the ground but I don’t think there is any need to panic just yet. The only assumption I can make is that maybe the retailers have been holding off on ordering Christmas stock until after the election.”
However, Shanks materials director Paul Dumpleton said freight rates are causing the drop. He added: “Export prices are down to £60 a tonnes if you can find an order. Hopefully it is a short term thing, as it seems the Chinese have decided to stop buying to drive prices down. They are currently facing high freight rates and very high cardboard prices [which they cannot afford].”
MRW’s new weekly Market Intelligence - China Report found that shipping costs from UK ports to main Chinese ports had gone up in the past week from $1700 to $1800, as a result of a lack of ships in the UK. The cost of shipping has risen by 6% over the past two weeks, which has concerned waste paper traders in particular.
“Plastic is also struggling as it has been for a little while. But China was paying too much for the material anyway,” explained Dumpleton. “It means this summer people will find it difficult to move material, so we might find some people storing material in yards. We expect it to pick up as we come closer to autumn.”
Chinese buyers told MRW that orders have begun to slow because the off-peak plastic season has begun. There is less demand for LDPE film in North China because they are producing less finished products, so European merchants are selling this material to south east Asia instead. However, as a result the price has dropped by $20 on average.
But AWS Eco Plastic commercial director Duncan Oakes believes that legislation is driving the price down for plastics at the moment. He said: “Prices have definitely tailed off across plastics. It seems to be because there are changes happening with import legislation. It is typical of China not to say what changes are going to be made until they are in place. We are now trying to work out if it is something in the short term or something to be concerned about.”