UPDATE 1-China metal recycling body sees 2020 copper scrap imports down 50%

(Adds details, background, and comment from CMRA official)

XIAMEN, China, Sept 11 (Reuters) - China’s copper scrap imports are expected to drop around 50% this year, an official from the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association’s CMRA recycling branch said on Friday.

China, the world’s top metals consumer, brought in 1.49 million tonnes of copper scrap in 2019, Wang Jiwei, deputy president of CMRA, said at the China International Copper Forum. The country has granted import quotas for 743,140 tonnes of copper scrap so far this year.

China has been limiting scrap purchases as part of its efforts to cut imports of solid waste. It aims for a blanket ban on solid waste imports by end-2020, but high-grade copper and aluminium scrap meeting new standards will still be allowed.

A lack of customs codes and clarity on the process for importing this high-grade scrap, however, and a new solid waste law that took effect on Sept. 1 has made shipping lines reluctant to ship soon-to-be-banned material to China, raising the prospect of an imminent supply shortage.

“There is some (supply shortage) impact,” said Wang on the sidelines of the conference, referring to the suspension of the shipping of some waste products.

“But it can be overcome ... There are still some companies doing the shipping, especially Chinese domestic companies ... (and) we hope they continue to do so,” he said.

The CMRA in August gave overseas suppliers and domestic buyers 20 working days to apply for certification - under which qualified companies would be given priority for pre-shipment inspection and easier customs clearance in China - later extending the deadline to the year-end.

Wang said about 150 companies - many Chinese ones - have applied to become suppliers or importers of the scrap.

Reporting by Emily Chow in Xiamen; Writing by Min Zhang in Beijing; Editing by Jacqueline Wong