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Soldering on: tin price surges past $40,000 after Jakarta jolt

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Indonesia may stop tin exports in 2024 as part of its ambitions to attract investment into downstream processing and manufacturing in the Asian nation, President Joko Widodo said on Wednesday.

The news sent the metal, extensively used in the electronics sector, to a fresh record high on Thursday with three-month contracts topping $40,000 a tonne for the first time ever.  Prompt delivery tin has traded at unprecedented  premiums of more than $1,000 a tonne this year, indicating severe supply shortages in the cash market.

Reuters reports at a gathering of Indonesia’s central bank stakeholders, Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, used the example of nickel as a success story to position the country as a hub in the booming electric car manufacturing industry: 

“We have started with nickel. Maybe next year, we are calculating, we may stop exports of bauxite. The next year we may be able to stop copper, and the next year tin.

“We want these resources to be exported as semi-finished goods or as finished goods, because what we want is the added value.” 

The nickel ban is currently before the World Trade Organization after the EU complained and though tantalizing for markets the strategy of Indonesia, the world’s number two producer, around tin exports is not clear. Jakarta has since 2018 banned unprocessed tin exports requiring the metal to be sold in its refined form with at least 95% content.

Soldering on

Pressure on tin markets has been building since the start of the pandemic, and the price has more than doubled since this time last year. 

In its latest industry report, market analyst Fitch Solutions said the rate of global tin supply has recovered from the covid-19 pandemic has been significantly outpaced by the rapid recovery in demand. Tin is used in electronics through solders in semiconductors, a sector that saw a massive spike in demand during the pandemic due to the increased sales of medical as well as home equipment and personal devices.

The resulting reduction of global refined tin stockpiles has continued to force prices higher in the year-to-date, and left the market significantly exposed to price increases during China’s power crunch, Fitch says. With tin solder being a major part of photovoltaic cells, that are the main components that make up a solar panel, demand during China’s power crunch sky-rocketed.

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