Since the previous Mirror report, many South East Asian countries have experienced new COVID waves given the slow roll-out of vaccines as well as the close proximity to India, which has now become the epicentre of the pandemic.
Many South East Asian businesses, especially within the metal recycling industry, depend greatly on their Indian workforce. Malaysia, in particular, is currently experiencing an extreme labour shortage owing to COVID-related restrictions; it has banned flights to and from India, and also travellers from entering the country from anywhere in India, in order to help prevent the spread of the virus.
This labour shortage is expected to worsen as Malaysia imposed a partial nationwide lockdown on May 12, known as a Movement Control Order (MCO), which will last until June 7. Such lockdown measures have already been implemented in both Thailand and the Philippines.
While these labour issues will certainly put pressure on the capacities of scrap processors in the region, demand for both aluminium and copper units has not been dampened. As copper reached an all-time high on May 10, trading at over US$ 10,700 per tonne, scrap processors were enjoying healthy profits on material purchased earlier, which only reinforced their continued demand.
As previously reported, the Malaysian-based agency SIRIM QAS International Sdn. Bhd. has provided guidelines for the importation and inspection of metal scrap. According to these, the Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) could require all metal scrap import cargoes to be subjected to a pre-shipment and a post-shipment inspection process, and for all imported material to meet a minimum threshold for non-metallic and non-conforming content.
While it has been reported that much dialogue has taken place between SIRIM and the Malaysia Non-Ferrous Metals Association (MNMA), the guidelines have yet to be finalized. BIR will report any new information relating to this matter.
Liberty Iron & Metal, Inc. (USA), Board Member of the BIR Non-Ferrous Metals Division