Growth in Supply is Expected to Increase Faster than Demand and Lead to Prices Falling from Record Levels

Apr 24, 2013, 07:11 ET from Roskill Information Services

LONDON, April 24, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Iodine prices experienced a strong increase throughout 2011 reaching a peak of US$97.5/kg in June on the spot market.  This increase was triggered by the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and exacerbated by a supply shortage in South America.  These reductions in supply combined with strong growth in consumption from applications such as X-ray contrast media, biocides and OPF, led to a surge in prices.

At the beginning of 2012, iodine prices softened to an average of US$67/kg in the first quarter although supplies remained tight.  The fall followed a slight rise in supply as shipments from ACF Minera's Algorta Norte project started and output from Japanese producers recovered to normal rates.  Prices subsequently strengthened in Q2 and Q3.

As with all commodities, the price of iodine is determined by the balance between supply and demand.  In 2012, crude iodine production was around 28,700t including an estimated 5,000t of secondary material.  In 2013, production is expected to increase by around 8% if targets from Chilean producers are reached.  The actual increase may only be around 5-6%.  Global demand is expected to rise by 3.5%py to 2017, from 30,600t in 2012.

In the first quarter of 2013, prices continued to soften, dropping to around 11.5% below Q1 2012 levels.  This may have resulted from production rising at a higher rate than consumption.  If production targets are reached, and demand rises as forecast, prices may decrease further through 2013 and by Q1 2014, contract price may be 10% below Q1 2013 levels. Prices are then forecast to rise progressively at low rate to 2017.

Rise in consumption and future demand driven by X-ray contrast media, biocides and OPF production

Iodine is used in a diverse applications by a wide variety of industries.  Around half, however, is used in applications directly related to human health, for example X-ray contrast media, iodophors (biocides) and pharmaceuticals.  Most of the remainder is used in industrial applications including OPF (Optical Polarizing Film) for liquid crystal displays (LCDs), catalysts, heat stabilisers and the production of fluorine derivatives.  Markets for iodine tend to be long-established and mature so show low growth rates.  The exception is that for OPF, which has risen from an estimated 200t in 2000 to 3,950t in 2012.  

The main trade flows of iodine and iodine derivatives are from Chile and Japan to North America and Europe.  Asian imports, especially to China, India and South Korea, have become increasingly important over the last decade and exceeded those of North America in 2010 and 2012.  In terms of consumption, Asia is the leading region followed by Europe and North America.

New capacity entering the market will meet forecast rise in demand

Global capacity is estimated to be divided between primary (70%) and secondary (30%). The supply of secondary iodine has grown significantly over the last ten years.  Most of this has been from waste generated during OPF production in South Korea, Japan or Taiwan.  Japanese companies account for an estimated two-thirds of secondary production, or 3,000t in 2012.

Output of crude iodine takes place in nine countries, ordered by size: Chile, Japan, USA, China, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Indonesia, and Russia.  Production is dominated by Chilean and Japanese companies, which accounted for an estimated 58% and 32% respectively of global output during 2012.  However, an estimated third of Japanese production is of secondary output recycled from waste.

SQM of Chile is the leading producer, accounting for over a third of global output in 2012.  The other major Chilean producers are ACF Minera and Cosayach.  In 2011, Cosayach lost an estimated 2,700tpy of capacity following the closure of unlicenced wells supplying water to its processing plant.  Japanese producers, led by Ise Chemical and Godo Shigen, have a global capacity of over 10,000tpy.  

Supply of crude iodine is expected to be more than sufficient to meet forecast demand.  The main reason for this is the increase in Chilean and, in the longer-term, US capacities.  SQM, ACF Minera, Sirocco Mining and SCM Bullmine are planning to increase capacity by a combined 5,000tpy by 2014.  Japanese secondary production is likely to increase in line with growth output of OPF.

Iodine: Global Industry Markets and Outlook (11th edition) is available at £3230 / US$5185 / €4080 from Roskill Information Services Ltd, 54 Russell Road, London SW19 1QL ENGLAND.

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Note to editors

The report contains 272 pages, 138 tables and 122 figures. It provides a detailed review of the industry, with subsections on the activities of the leading producing companies. It also analyses consumption, trade and prices.

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SOURCE Roskill Information Services