The Importance of the Chinese Import Market
The Chinese import market is key to export oriented large scale solar salt producers in India, Australia, and Mexico. Four projects are currently under way in Australia at different stages (K+S Group – Ashburton, BCI Minerals – Mardie Salt and Potash, Leichhard Industrial – Eramurra, Fin Ressources – Sol Mar) which will provide an additional 20 million metric tons of salt for the export market.
Development of Chinese Domestic Production and Imports
Over the past decade, Chinese domestic production of crystallized salt had been decreasing, and imports increased to an estimated 10 million metric tons for the full year 2023.
Import prices have also increased over the past years, but started to re-decrease in Q1 2023 for most exporting countries.
Main reason for the recent price decrease is lower shipping cost, but also demand growth in the main end-use market has slowed down.
Chlor-Alkali Industry is Key to the Import Market
The Chinese chlor-alkali industry consumes almost all of the imported salt. Its continuing growth is key to additional demand for imported salt. In the past five years, caustic soda production increased at an annual rate of 4.2%. Consumption growth slowed down more recently, and China exports an increasing part of caustic soda production.
Growing Competition in the Salt Export Market
Other countries with suitable climatic and geographical conditions are planning to set up large scale solar salt plants. Millions of tons of salt may become available for the export market from the NEOM desalination plant in Saudi Arabia, and it may take longer than expected for all new export salt volumes to be absorbed by the market.