Growing mono wafer makers fuel polysilicon imports into China

Monthly polysilicon imports into China from February 2017 through January 2018
Polysilicon imports into China significantly increased from all major importing countries in January – Chart: Bernreuter Research

After the low in December, polysilicon imports into China surprisingly surged to an unusually large volume of 16,261 metric tons (MT) in January, an increase of 29.7% month over month. The amount only fell short of the highest monthly volume in 2017, which equated to 17,628 MT in September.

While imports from South Korea and Germany roughly returned to the level seen in November, both Taiwan and Malaysia marked their highest-ever monthly volumes of 2,477 MT and 1,597 MT, respectively.

Normally, polysilicon imports into China are flat or decline during the low season in January and February.

The obvious reason behind the surge is the growth ambition of the leading Chinese monocrystalline wafer manufacturers Longi and Zhonghuan Semiconductor. They need high-purity polysilicon, which is mainly imported from South Korea and Germany. U.S. producers are impeded by high import duties, and domestic volumes with sufficient quality are relatively small.

Thus, 2018 could see a bifurcation of the polysilicon market in China, with shortage of high-purity feedstock and plenty of lower-grade material.

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