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Copper demand growth seen driven by India, Southeast Asia, new energy

17th November 2023

By: Reuters

  

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SHANGHAI - India and Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam, are expected to drive the growth in copper consumption towards 2030, as China's super-cycle growth slows, industry experts said.

Southeast Asia and India together will likely account for 20% of global refined copper demand growth during the 2023-2028 period, and could account for 60% of longer-term copper demand growth, Craig Lang, an analyst at CRU, said at the World Copper Conference Asia.

Urbanisation, green energy transition investments and consumption growth amid rising populations in India and Southeast Asia - at around 2 billion people combined - are the main factors driving copper demand in these countries, Lang said.

Copper cathode demand in Southeast Asia is expected to more than double to 2.8-million metric tons in 2030, from 1.3-million tons last year, Motoki Makita, general manager at Mitsui & Co, said at the conference.

In 2024, Thailand could consume 380 000 t, Vietnam is seen needing 305,000 tons and Malaysia's demand is expected at 290 000 t, Makita said.

India's import need is expected to rise to 350,000 tons in 2030, from 100,000 tons in 2025, as demand is likely to surpass the additional output from the Adani smelter that is being built, he said.

Although India and Southeast Asia account for a small fraction of copper consumption compared to China, their growth made up for the slowing demand expansion in the world's biggest consumer of copper.

China's massive growth in the past two decades, dubbed the super-cycle, helped drive copper consumption nearly five times higher, from 3 million tons in 2004 to nearly 15 million tons in 2022, data from the World Bureau of Metal Statistics showed.

But as its economy became more mature, China's construction and manufacturing sectors no longer experienced the frenzied expansion of previous years.

However, China's copper demand is unlikely to fall, thanks to a surge in consumption from renewable energy and electric vehicles.

Copper consumption from the new energy sector could grow to 7.7-million tons in 2030, nearly three times the 2.6 million tons expected this year, Yang Chengxiao, president assistant at Minmetals Securities, told the conference.

CRU's Lang expects the LME three-month copper price to rise to $9 088 a ton next year, from $8 514 in 2023, and could hit $12 350 in 2028, due to a long-term shortage.

The global refined copper market could see a small deficit of 54 000 tons in 2024, before rebounding to a surplus in 2025-2026 and returning to a deficit in 2027 and 2028, when the shortage could balloon to around half a million tons.

The deficit next year hinges on an expectation of an economic rebound in Western countries, Lang said.

Mitsui's Makita, however, expects a surplus in the global copper market in 2024 and 2025 on rising refined output, and predicted the balance will flip to a deficit from 2027 to 2030 after supply peaks in 2026.

Edited by Reuters

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