Polysilicon Imports into China Drop as Manufacturers Shift to Vietnam

China’s polysilicon imports dropped 28.5% to 62,965 metric tons

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Polysilicon imports into China dropped 28.5% in 2023 to 62,965 metric tons (MT), the lowest level since 2011, according to Germany-based polysilicon market research firm Bernreuter. Polysilicon is a key material for making solar cells and semiconductors.

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The report also says that major foreign suppliers like Wacker, Hemlock Semiconductor, and OCI Malaysia are shifting shipments from China to Vietnam after U.S. regulations aimed at preventing imports of goods linked to forced labor in Xinjiang came into force.

To avoid the regulations, big Chinese solar module makers like JA Solar, JinkoSolar, and Trina Solar have already opened wafer plants in Vietnam and are sourcing polysilicon from non-Chinese suppliers.

JA Solar began making wafers in Vietnam in 2018-19, starting with 1.5 GW yearly capacity. By the first half of 2023, they increased it to 4 GW. JinkoSolar built a 7 GW wafer plant in early 2022, and Trina Solar opened a 6.5 GW wafer factory in August 2023.

According to Bernreuter, manufacturing wafers outside China makes it easier for companies to show the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency that polysilicon from Xinjiang has not entered the supply chain of modules destined for the U.S.

However, a surge in polysilicon exports from China to Vietnam in 2023 raised concerns that these supply chains may not be as separate as claimed. Polysilicon exports from China to Vietnam soared from 639 MT in 2022 to 4,970 MT in 2023.

“That raises doubts about the claims of a separate supply chain and should sound alarm bells at the CBP,” said Johannes Bernreuter, head of the polysilicon market Bernreuter Research.

Overall, polysilicon imports into China from the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan plunged in 2023 as temporary supply deals expired. Germany’s Wacker and Malaysia’s OCI now account for 98% of Chinese polysilicon imports.

Bernreuter predicts polysilicon imports into China could drop another 40% this year to around 38,000 MT as major solar manufacturers focus on wafer production in Vietnam instead.

Earlier this month, India’s Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) initiated an anti-dumping investigation on imports of textured tempered coated and uncoated glass originating in or exported from China and Vietnam.

DGTR also recommended the extension of anti-dumping duty on the imports of Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) backsheets originating in or exported from China for five years. It found that EVA backsheets continue to be exported to India at prices below the normal value, resulting in their dumping.

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