The benchmark price of ferrochrome in Europe in the first quarter of 2021 was set at US $1.175/pound, up 3.1% from the fourth quarter of this year. Before the adjustment, the price was stable for three consecutive quarters.
Glencore's partner, South African mining company merafe, announced the benchmark price today after negotiating with a major European stainless steel manufacturer.
This year, the benchmark price system has caused widespread controversy. Many traders believe that, considering the price trend of high carbon ferrochrome in the European market and the low content of charge grade ferrochrome, it is not synchronized with the market. However, with the demand rising and supply tightening after the production reduction at the beginning of the year, the European spot ferrochrome price has rebounded. Argus yesterday assessed the price of 60% chromium content of high carbon ferrochrome at US $0.85-0.94/pound duty paid delivery, higher than the US $0.74-0.86/pound when the fourth quarter benchmark was announced on September 18.
However, market participants believe that the weakening of the South African rand against the US dollar may offset the potential gains after the benchmark increase in the first quarter of 2021.
For the ferrochrome market, the fourth quarter was a turbulent quarter. In view of the delay in benchmark pricing in the past few quarters, some traders were surprised to confirm the benchmark price in the first quarter today. South Africa's government proposed an export tax on chromium ore in October, which attracted criticism from several companies and industry groups for its failure to help domestic ferrochrome plants. Because their bigger challenge is the high electricity prices of Eskom, the state-owned utility. South Africa's Ministry of energy last week drew up a framework that would allow individual companies to negotiate lower electricity prices in the face of high costs. It remains to be seen whether South Africa will eventually impose an export tax on chromium ore and how it will affect the broader market.
Demand in the stainless steel industry has risen in the past quarter, with key consumer industries such as automakers struggling to rebound from the recession caused by the epidemic. About 77% of the world's ferrochromium is used in the stainless steel industry, a large part of which is usually exported to China. TISCO announced earlier that it would increase stainless steel production in the face of rising domestic consumption. Demand in Europe also picked up in the fourth quarter, especially in Germany, where steel mills are expected to continue production during Christmas.
After the lifting of the epidemic blockade in South Africa, the production of mining industry in South Africa has resumed, and the production of ferrochrome in South Africa has also increased recently. On September 30, Glencore, one of the country's major ferrochrome producers, said four of its five smelters were already in operation, and its ferrochrome production in the fourth quarter is expected to double that in the third quarter.
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- [Editor:Catherine Ren]