HERTFORDSHIRE, UK – Refined tin use in 2020 decreased 1.6% to 361,900 tonnes, with a preliminary estimate of 7.2% expansion during 2021, attributed to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey by the International Tin Association. These data reflect unexpected boosts to tin use such as working from home. This, however, could be overly optimistic based on use sectors being constrained by supply chain issues in the second half of 2021, says ITA.
Some 101 companies took part in the study, accounting for some 47% of estimated global refined tin use in 2020, ITA said.
Solder still accounts for the largest global share of tin use, decreasing slightly to 48% in 2020. Forecasts for 2021 indicate a global average increase of 8.8% related to rapid recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, with RoW being more positive at 15.9% year-over-year growth from -9.2% base in 2020. Electronics use sectors were boosted by increased working, education, and leisure from home. Respondents commented on future potential in 5G and related technologies.
The average proportion of lead-free solders in electronics grew to 80% globally in 2020, up from 77% in 2019. An increased 82% of specified tin use globally in lead-free solders was <100ppm Pb. The trend toward higher-purity, lower-lead specifications in tinplate also continued in 2020, as 79% of refined tin specified by reporting participants was <50ppm Pb, a marked shift from 45% in 2019.
Refined tin stocks held by surveyed companies at the end of 2020 amounted to the equivalent of 2.6 weeks’ supply. If this ratio is extrapolated based on global consumption, it implies world consumer stock holdings were around 18,200 tonnes. Compared to data from 2019 and forecasts for 2021, consumer stocks grew in 2020. Forecasts for 2021 suggest consumers are using up stocks they were able to rebuild last year.
Provisional estimates of total global tin use, including refined and unrefined forms, totaled 432,700 tonnes in 2020, down 1.7% from 2019. The recycling input rate was calculated to be 33.1% in 2020 and is forecast to fall to 32.8% in 2021.
In chemicals, tin use by survey participants was stable, reducing slightly 0.6% in 2020 and forecast to grow 1.6% in 2021. The pandemic particularly impacted China markets, balanced by more positive feedback from the US; residential construction related to an exodus away from cities boosted markets.
Tinplate use reversed a long-term trend of being static or in decline, growing in the survey sample 2.6% in 2020 and forecast to continue increasing 8.1% in 2021 due to increased canned food and beverage purchasing boosted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tin use in tin-copper markets largely maintained overall markets, down 2.5%. Participants reported optimistic forecasts of 20% growth in 2021, driven by new technology markets, including electric vehicles and new electrical infrastructures. Other more traditional metal product markets fell around 15% in 2020, especially outside China, although they are expected to rebound to 1% growth in 2021. These sectors were hit hard by Covid-19, especially the automotive, engineering and giftware sectors.