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Benelux

Ahead of the final Non-Ferrous Metals Mirror of the year, I found myself on the road travelling again - a welcome sign of the positive direction in which we had been heading. The BIR’s Global Trading Forum in Brussels had been an early milestone in meeting people face to face again after such a long hiatus. When one of my contacts at the BIR told me about his first-born, I was surprised that I had not been aware of this and asked about the age of the new arrival: almost 18 months, I was told, or about the same amount of time since we had seen each other at an in-person BIR Convention. What an eye-opener.

While travelling in the USA, I was following the news from Europe and realized that COVID trends were worsening again: with Austria announcing a lockdown, I thought that by the time I returned home, Belgium would be in lockdown too. It did not happen, but the rules are getting stricter again and companies that had just started to welcome back employees to their offices were asked to reintroduce a home-office policy once again. Schools are closing earlier and will have a three-week Christmas holiday instead of two weeks, while bars and restaurants are having to implement stricter rules again. The timing of the BIR’s Global Trading Forum was indeed fortunate.

Business-wise, 2021 can be called a very successful year despite the many challenges relating to, for example, COVID and logistics; most people I met at the BIR confirmed this overall sentiment. Not unexpectedly, business is currently slowing as the majority of scrap yards have had a very good year and now prefer to wait for 2022.

There is good demand for copper, whether from the various European plants/consumers or from China in the case of clean units. The appetite is certainly there. Copper cables are tougher to source at present, especially the better qualities. Aluminium demand is good, mainly for the higher qualities, and pricing is high. Zinc demand is lower for the moment (fewer players and with good inventory levels) but, on a positive note with the higher zinc market, pricing remains more than fair.

In general with the current market dynamics, it remains tough and tricky to conduct business.