ITA Survey shows weaker tin use growth in 2018

The International Tin Association’s (ITA) 14th annual survey of tin users carried out July to August 2018 showed robust growth of 4% in 2017 but much weaker tin use growth forecasts in 2018. Tin use growth in China has stalled though elsewhere the picture is more positive. 109 companies took part in the survey, accounting for some 38% of estimated global refined tin use.

Key headline findings from the report are as follows:

  • Based on the 2018 survey and trade data, ITA’s latest estimate of refined tin use in 2017 is 362,500 tonnes, 7,000 tonnes higher than preliminary estimates.
  • Refined tin demand increased by 4% from 2016 in line with global estimates, and similar growth is expected in 2018.
  • ITA predict global tin demand will grow by 1%, with a contraction in tin demand in China offset by growth elsewhere.
  • Estimates show global stock holdings stand at around 23,000 tonnes – 3.27 weeks’ supply – which indicate declining consumer stock holdings over the three year period.
  • Global tin use including refined and unrefined forms is estimated to total 441,400 tonnes in 2017, up 4.5% from 2016. The Recycling Input Rate (RIR) was calculated as 30.3% in 2017, down from 30.8% in 2016.
  • Solder still accounts for the largest global share of tin use, growing by 3.7% in 2017, but is predicted to decline in China with impacts from the US-China trade war balanced by market expansion and opportunities in new markets including energy technologies.
  • The average lead-free share for electronic solders remained stable at 68% in 2017. There is a continuing trend towards use of lower Pb content specifications in refined tin. All reported tin use in tinplate was now <100ppm Pb tin with 30% <50ppm Pb and 6% <25ppm Pb. In solder, 73% of surveyed tin used globally was <100ppm Pb, higher in China at 95%.
  • While tin use in chemicals grew by 7.5% in 2017, it is expected to slow significantly in 2018. China government environmental inspections continued to impact production and growing US-China trade issues are a concern. Tin price, competition and regulation are still significant issues but overall demand growth is positive, especially for polymer additives.
  • Tin use in tinplate continues to remain static or in decline, although some growth was estimated for 2017 outside China where some, mostly smaller companies, were more positive than expected for 2018. Overcapacity and competition continue to impact the industry, recently compounded by US steel tariffs, but there is some optimism that new pressure on plastics may make tinplate more competitive in the future.
  • Tin use in other applications includes lead-acid batteries, copper alloys and others such as tin and bronze powders, wine capsules, pewter, tin coatings and float glass. Although smaller and more traditional uses are stable, demand growth is positive for the automotive and glass industries particularly, with good prospects for advanced lead-acid batteries and tinned copper in hybrid and electric vehicles.

ITA analyst Tom Mulqueen said: “We believe the tin use outlook is weaker for 2018 due to a combination of factors including escalating trade tensions and macroeconomic developments, especially in China where other factors are hindering growth. However, in other regions growth looks more positive, notably in solder.”

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