Based on the annual import performance summary of natural rubbers in 2016 from the Rubber Trade Association of Japan, the import volume (crude rubbers) was 659,727 tons, decreased by 3% compared to the same period of last year, and the import amount was 100 billion 636 million 450 thousand yen, decreased by 23% compared to the same period of last year. The annual average unit price was 152.5 yen, cheaper by 40.3 yen compared to the same period of last year.
As for December by itself, the total import volume was 45,162 tons, increased by 9% compared to the same period of last year, showing an increase for 2 months in a row. The import amount was 7 billion 833 million 380 thousand yen, increased by 9% (last year was 7 billion 195 million 600 thousand yen), thus went beyond the actual performance of the same period of last year for the first time in 16 months. The average import unit value in December was 173.5 yen per kilo, which is higher than last month by 19.6 yen and showed an increase for 2 months in a row.
Looking at trends in tire production volume by every cumulative quarter, which account for majority of natural rubber consumption, production volume for automobile tires and tubes (research by JATMA) between January and March was decreased by 7.2%, between April and June was decreased by 6.1%, between July to September was decreased by 0.9%, between October and December was increased by 0.1% compared to the same period of last year, thus tire production volumes showed recovery trend. Furthermore, although accumulated total of four-wheel vehicles production volume in 2016 (research by JATMA) went below the previous year’s actual performance result, it gained upward momentum and increased by 1.78% between July and December.
Looking back on the import performance of natural rubbers in 2016 under this demand environment, while it shifted below the previous year’s result during the first-half, it shifted between increase and decrease repeatedly during the second-half, shrinking decrease in the accumulated total gradually. However, it wasn’t enough to makeup the drop in the first half.
Actual import volumes are as follows: In January, it started with 58,733 tons (1% increase from the same month last year), then continued to fall till April with in February 54,752 tons (12% decrease), in March 65,345 tons (2% decrease), and in April 50,698 tons (18% decrease). Although it ended with 62,324 tons (slight increase) in May, it continued to decrease again with June being 53,470 tons (9% decrease), July being 54,318 tons (1% decrease), then in August it increased with the result of 54,105 tons (9% increase). After continued to fall with September being 54,880 tons (6% decrease), and October being 52,741 tons (8% decrease), it increased in November with the result of 53,200 tons (4% increase) and December also continued with increase.
As for the import amount, natural rubber prices, which is said to have high correlation, remained low due to long-term downward trend of crude oil prices. Due to this and collapse of supply and demand balance, the import amount continued to fall worse than the import volume. Due to the rising price of crude oil, implement ion of export reduction measures in four major natural rubber producers in Southeast Asia in March, as well as bad weather at the production site, local natural rubber price has risen. Later on, recovery in demand in China led to soaring exchange rate in Shanghai, causing natural rubber’s price rise in Asia during the fourth quarter. The import amount in December also went beyond the actual performance of the same period of last year for the first time in 16 months.
On the other hand, When we look at shifting of average import unit values (yen per kilo) month by month, while it fell down to 159.3 yen in January (14.1 yen cheaper than the same month last year), 152.9 yen in February (6.4 yen cheaper), 143.1 yen in March (9.8 yen cheaper), 140.8 yen in April (2.3 yen cheaper), it went up to reach 141.6 yen (0.8 yen higher) in May and 157.4 yen (15.8 yen higher) in June. In July, it dropped to 154.9 yen (2.5 yen cheaper), then went up again in August reaching 156.8 yen (1.9 yen higher). It continued to fall with 151.9 yen in September (4.9 yen cheaper) and 150.4 yen in October (1.5 yen cheaper), then it went up to 153.9 yen in November (3.5 yen higher) for the first time in 3 months, and this trend continued into December.