Anchor: The nation is bracing for a urea shortage like the one that sent shockwaves through the trucking industry a few years ago. Shipments of the element from China to South Korea were recently suspended, leaving the country with a roughly three-month supply and no official explanation from Beijing.
Max Lee zooms in on this looming issue.
Report: China’s import and export supervising agency suspended the export of urea to South Korean companies on Saturday.
Seoul government sources speculated that the move by the General Administration of Customs was made in consideration of its domestic supply and demand and not as a formal export control measure, with confirmation from Beijing that there is no official suspension.
However, South Korea’s Ambassador to China Chung Jae-ho told reporters on Monday that South Korean companies importing urea are facing problems with customs procedures and that the embassy sent official letters to Chinese agencies raising the issue and calling for smooth clearance.
While the China Nitrogen Fertilizer Industry Association, a group under the Ministry of Civil Affairs, and the government attribute the recent export curbs to supply concerns, data from October show that urea production jumped nine-point-seven percent from last year to reach four-point-96 million tons, appearing to undermine claims of a shortage.
Experts point to an increase in export figures of urea as a reason instead, with the nation’s volume of outbound shipments in September standing at over one-point-18 million tons, an increase of 241-point-seven percent compared to the same period last year.
The largest importer was India, taking up 73-percent of all of China’s urea exports in the same month, while South Korea came in at under ten percent.
Even during the shortage in 2021, India was still importing a high volume of the compound from China.
China’s latest move appears to be part of preparations for a similar situation amid volatility in raw material prices due to the ongoing Ukraine War and the Israel-Hamas armed conflict. It also coincides with the recent export regulation of other raw materials such as gallium and germanium.
Max Lee, KBS World Radio News.