EU Alloy Supply Fears Push Higher Volumes Toward LTCs

Uncertainty about European ferro-alloy supply is causing market participants to lock in higher volumes under long-term contracts (LTCs), with buyers keen to ensure they have enough material in the first quarter of 2022 and less willing to risk exposure in the spot market.
These dynamics are also being borne out in LTC pricing terms, with several market participants negotiating premiums to indexes where in previous years discounts have been the norm.
“It is a trader’s dream at the moment because consumers are focused on securing material,” a ferro-molybdenum trader said, adding that “you can always find material for a certain price and if it is tied to an index with a premium then you can always ensure a margin”. “It is becoming more of sellers game,” a ferro-vanadium producer said.
Concerns about January-March supply — which have been rumbling on throughout this year amid global shipping concerns and production cuts — are particularly acute for ferro-vanadium and ferro-silicon, according to market participants. For the latter, this is in part due to high energy costs, with one ferro-silicon producer telling that they are unsure if they will be able to raise output in the near-term if those costs remain at current levels. Competing in the spot market will become even more of a challenge if lower-priced material from China moves into Europe in January, he added.
Logistical constraints remain a major concern, with ballooning lead times and port congestion being factored in as 2022 LTCs are drawn up. Vessel cancellations have become commonplace for importers of many ferro-alloys, in particular from China, while longer shipping times have been seen globally.
This year’s rise in shipment cancellations and delays are making procurement decisions increasingly challenging, as buyers attempt to gauge volumes. A ferro-vanadium market participant confirmed that end-users are looking to book more material for January-March, but remarked that current conditions are making it a fraught process in some cases. “If you buy too much then you’re in trouble, but if you fail to buy enough then you lose your job,” he said.