* Dec rubber imports hit peak on lower Thai prices
* Thailand temporarily scrapped export duty to appease
* Stock build-up leads to record inventory
(Adds comment, details)
BEIJING, Jan 10 China, the world's largest user
of rubber, imported a record 350,000 tonnes of the material in
December, a nearly 67-percent year-on-year surge as traders
snapped up shipments from Thailand after it removed an export
Imports for 2013 hit 2.47 million tonnes, a 13.5-percent
rise from 2.18 million in 2012.
China accounts for about 35 percent of global rubber
consumption, with most going to its tyre-making industry.
The country's imports soared in the final months of the
year, after top exporting country Thailand temporarily canned an
export duty on rubber in September until year-end to appease
That lifted China's monthly imports from the southeast Asian
nation to more than 1 million tonnes in both October and
November. A country breakdown for December is not yet available.
Lower than usual international prices in December also
spurred Chinese imports, said Quan Shuwen, senior analyst at
November imports rose 24 percent from the month before to
269,000 tonnes, while December imports saw a further
The end of year surge in imports was also underpinned by
traders' expectations of state reserve buying. The reserves
bought about 230,000 tonnes of both Thai grade and domestic
rubber in the second half of the year.
Domestic demand has been relatively strong this year, added
Song Chao, analyst at Tianma Futures.
"The auto industry is recovering," he said.
Chinese vehicle sales rose nearly 14 percent during the
year, the highest in three years.
Yet not all of the strong end-of-year imports will be
consumed, with much going into warehouses. Current stocks of
nearly 300,000 tonnes of rubber at the country's bonded
warehouses are at record levels.
China's rubber demand was forecast at 4.15 million tonnes in
2013, up 8.2 percent year-on-year, according to the Association
of Natural Rubber Producing Countries, although domestic output
was also estimated to grow, reaching 864,000 tonnes, up 9.2
(Reporting by Dominique Patton and Niu Shuping; Editing by