HERTFORDSHIRE, UK – Worldwide tin use grew 4% in 2017, but tin use growth forecasts are expected to be weaker in 2018, says the International Tin Association. 

Figures are based on 109 companies, accounting for some 38% of estimated global refined tin use.

Solder still accounts for the largest global share of tin use, growing 3.7% in 2017. China forecasts for 2018 are more negative, with some impact from the escalating US-China trade war. Miniaturization remains the greatest threat, especially in China, balanced by market expansion and significant opportunities in new markets, including energy technologies, says the ITA.

Tin use growth in China has stalled, though elsewhere the picture is more positive, the association says.

"We believe the tin use outlook is weaker for 2018 due to a combination of factors, including escalating trade tensions and macroeconomic developments, especially in China where other factors are hindering growth,” said ITA analyst Tom Mulqueen. “However, in other regions growth looks more positive, notably in solder."

ITA’s latest estimate of refined tin use in 2017 is 362,500 tons, 7,000 tons higher than the preliminary 2017 estimate made following last year’s survey.

Refined tin demand reported by survey participants increased 4% from 2016, in line with recent global estimates. Similar growth is anticipated in 2018, but the ITA believes global tin demand will grow 1%, with a contraction in tin demand in China offset by growth elsewhere.

Provisional estimates of total global tin use, including refined and unrefined forms, totaled 441,400 tons in 2017, up 4.5% from 2016. The recycling input rate was calculated as 30.3% in 2017, down from 30.8% in 2016.

Average Pb-free share for electronic solders remained stable at 68% in 2017. There is a continuing trend toward use of lower lead content specifications in refined tin. All reported tin use in tinplate was nowTin use in chemicals grew 7.5% in 2017, although growth is expected to slow significantly in 2018. China government environmental inspections continued to impact production, and growing US-China trade issues are a concern. Tin price, competition and regulation are still significant issues, but overall demand growth is positive, especially for polymer additives.

Tin use in tinplate continues to remain static or in decline, although some growth was estimated for 2017 outside China, where some smaller companies were more positive than expected for 2018. Overcapacity and competition continue to impact the industry, recently compounded by US steel tariffs, but there is some optimism new pressure on plastics may make tinplate more competitive in the future.

Tin use in other applications includes lead-acid batteries, copper alloys and others, such as tin and bronze powders, wine capsules, pewter, tin coatings and float glass. Although smaller and more traditional uses are stable, demand growth is positive for the automotive and glass industries particularly, with good prospects for advanced lead-acid batteries and tinned copper in hybrid and electric vehicles.

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