Based on the import performance summary of natural rubbers from January to December 2014 from the Rubber Trade Association of Japan, the import volume (crude rubbers) was 689,447 tons, decreased by 4% compared to the same period of last year, and the import amount was 150 billion 653 million 660 thousand yen, decreased by 23% compared to the same period of last year.
Looking back on the import performance of natural rubbers in 2014, it was a year with sharp rise and fall for import volumes. The consumption tax rate change was introduced in April and there was a big swing in automobile tires production where the majority of demands on natural rubbers come from. Meanwhile, the import amount continued to drop since February due to natural rubber price slump.
According to the production volume of automobile tire tubes (statics from JATMA), the annual performance in 2014 was decreased by 0.6% compared to the same period of last year. This shows that drop in tire sector’s production volume, which is said to account for 90% of natural rubber consumption, reflected heavily on natural rubber import volume.
In contrast, when looking at the natural rubber import performance in December itself, the import volume total was 56,026 tons, an increase of 7% compared to the same period of last year for the first time in 6 months. The import amount was 11 billion 24 million 260 thousand yen, decreased by 17% compared to the same period of last year.
According to the number of tires being sold in December (statics from JATMA), commercial tires showed double-digit sale increase with winter tires for four-wheel drives due to snow. This strong winter tire market seemed to wake up demand for natural rubbers.
The average import unit value for natural rubbers in December was 196.8 yen per kilo, which is higher than last month by 1.1 yen and showed the first increase in 4 months.
Inventory level of natural rubbers in domestic commercial warehouse (statics from Rubber Trade Association of Japan) has been declining since the middle of May when the max value of 22,514 tons was reached, and it went below 10,000 tons in November. However, it’s started to show some recoveries thereafter and it’s been increasing for 4 continuous seasons towards the end of December. Flood damage at the production location at year-end and price management in the country of production became underlying factors to raise the import unit value up and it has been slowly increasing. This is believed to cause some impacts on the import amount shifts in the months ahead.
Month by month import performance of natural rubbers in 2014 are as follows: In January, import volume was 61,884 tons (3% increase from the same month last year) and import amount was 16 billion 62 million 800 thousand yen (1% increase); In February, import volume was 59,872 tons (4% decrease) and import amount was 15 billion 117 million 290 thousand yen (13% decrease); In March, import volume was 63,392 tons (3% increase) and import amount was 15 billion 504 million 300 thousand yen (15% decrease); In April, import volume was 54,830 tons (6% decrease) and import amount was 12 billion 586 million 220 thousand yen (29% decrease); In May, import volume was 53,104 tons (10% decrease) and import amount was 11 billion 550 million 950 thousand yen (36% decrease); In June, import volume was 56,340 tons (13% increase) and import amount was 14 billion 521 million 200 thousand yen (18% decrease); In July, import volume was 53,510 tons (17% decrease) and import amount was 10 billion 758 million 190 thousand yen (39% decrease); In August, import volume was 49,456 tons (17% decrease) and import amount was 10 billion 4 million yen (35% decrease); In September, import volume was 61,030 tons (remain the same) and import amount was 12 billion 244 million 100 thousand yen (20% decrease); In October, import volume was 64,075 tons (9% decrease) and import amount was 12 billion 981 million 320 thousand yen (26% decrease); In November, import volume was 55,827 tons (12% decrease) and import amount was 10 billion 935 million 740 thousand yen (30% decrease); and finally in December, import volume increased while import amount decreased.
When we look at shifting of average import unit values (yen per kilo) month by month, while it went up to reach 259.6 yen in January (6.1 yen higher than the same month last year), it fell down to 252.5 yen in February, 244.6 yen in March, 229.5 yen in April, 217.5 yen in May, 210.9 yen in June, and 201.1 yen in July. Although it went up to 202.3 yen in August for the first time in 7 months, it fell down again to 200.6 yen in September and remained the same 202.6 yen in October. In November, it fell down again to 195.5 yen, and then it went up again in December for the first time in 4 months. Since January, it’s dropped by 62.8 yen.