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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        18  February 2011

Poor weather hits tin production

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Tin output from Indonesia, the world’s largest exporter, may drop for a second year as flooding caused by a La Nina weather phenomenon cuts the supply of ore, according to an industry executive.

Refined tin output may total 60,000 to 70,000 metric tons this year, said Johan Murod, a director at Bangka Belitung Timah Sejahtera, a group of eight smelters. That compares to a January 6 government forecast for output of 90,000 tons this year and last year’s production of 78,965 tons.

The forecast plunge in output may exacerbate a global shortfall in the metal, further boosting prices that surged to a record earlier this week.

Standard Bank’s Leon Westgate said last month that tin has the biggest supply-demand imbalance of all base metals, with “significant deficits” forecast for 2011 and 2012.

“The weather anomaly has caused heavy rains since the middle of last year and there’s no sign it will stop anytime soon,” Johan said on Wednesday in Pangkal Pinang, Bangka Belitung.

The rains flooded mines, with miners able to work only two or three days a week instead of the usual six, he said.

Tin was the best performer of the six main base metals on the London Metal Exchange last year, jumping 59 percent, as supplies from China, Indonesia and Africa fell.

The three-month contract peaked at $32,799 per ton on Tuesday. Malaysia Smelting Corp. has said it may jump to $40,000.

An output forecast that is 30,000 tons “lower than earlier government estimates does seem to be quite substantial,” said Xin Yi Chen, an analyst at Barclays Capital.

“To the extent that Indonesian production does reduce by 30,000 tons from what has been forecast, it is clear that the price signal will have to rise further to ration demand,” he said.

Johan’s comments add to signs that La Nina, which has also caused heavy rains in Australia, is hurting commodity output from Southeast Asia’s biggest economy. Rain has been blamed for reduced production of coal, palm oil and rubber, driving prices skyward.

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