Latin American imports of finished steel products from China increased by 90% in May 2014 when compared with the same period last year, according to Alacero.

The figure for May 2014 was 852kt but the figure for the period January to May 2014 was up 81% at 3.4Mt when compared with 1.9Mt for the same period in 2013.

China exported 30.5Mt globally during the first five months of 2014, a year-on-year growth rate of 39%. According to Alacero, Chinese exports have maintained 'an accelerated pace' and the flow to Latin America 'is even more aggressive'.

Latin America accounts for an 11% share of Chinese finished steel exports (and accounts for 5% of global finished steel use).

The main destination for Chinese finished steel is South Korea, but, according to Alacero, 'it is worth highlighting that the gap between this country and Latin America has been decreasing'. Alacero believes that if this trend continues, Latin America 'may become the first destination for Chinese finished steel.'

Looking at individual Latin American countries, Paraguay increased its year-on-year imports of Chinese finished steel by 273% (January to May 2014) followed by Mexico (164%), Argentina (157%), Brazil (138%), and Columbia (115%).

In tonnage terms, during the January to May 2014 period, Brazil imported 887kt of Chinese finished steel. Chile, 506kt; Central America, 441kt.

Central America represents around 5% of finished steel consumption in the region and that imports from China accounted for 31% of consumption during the period. "This oversized trade flow as compared to the local consumption, could be displaying the preference of certain exporters for the countries of this region," said Alacero, arguing that Panama might be a preferred entry port for reaching other Latin American countries.

In terms of types of finished steel imported into Latin America from China, flat steel accounted for 65% of the total during the period under scrutiny. Breaking that percentage down, sheets and coils accounted for 37%, cold rolled coils, 22% and hot galvanised, 19%.

Long products from China during the period amounted to 914kt of which 57% was wire and 34% bars.

In fact, while most Latin American countries recorded percentage increases in finished steel imports, the only countries whose year-on-year growth declined were Venezuela (-33%) and the Dominican Republic (0%). Cuba's year-on-year growth (of Chinese finished steel imports) was up by only 12%.