Indian Silver Imports Continue at Torrid Pace in the First Quarter.
India imported 1,387 tons (44.6 million ounces) of silver in the first three months of 2018.
India’s love affair with gold is legendary. India imports hundreds of tons of gold a year and it is estimated that Indian households and temples have over 22,000 tons of gold! India, however, is making its mark on another precious metal – silver. Over the last ten years Indian silver imports have climbed steadily. Since 2013, Indian silver imports have averaged over 6,100 tons annually, an increase of 118% over the period of 1999-2012 when Indian annual silver imports averaged about 2800 tons. In 2015, Indian silver imports accounted for about 1/3 of annual silver mining production!
India has virtually no domestic gold mining production and little silver production. As a result, India relies extensively on imports and secondary supply to meet its precious metals demand.
Indian silver demand has increased due to a number of factors.
1. Gold Import Duty
The Indian government has placed import duties on gold, added a sales tax and initiated a gold monetization scheme designed to get Indians to turn in their gold to in exchange for interest bearing bonds. While the Indian government’s anti-gold initiatives have dented official gold demand in India, black market sales and imports continue. Silver has been a direct beneficiary of the campaign against gold. Indians prize silver for its beauty and also give it as gifts. It’s not substitute for gold but it is viewed favorably.
Annual Indian Silver Imports 2008 -2018
2. An Increasing Middle Class and Jewelry, Silverware & Investment Demand
Estimates of the size of the Indian middle class range from about 250-350 million people or approximately the same size of the entire population of the United State. Relatively wealthy Indians have driven up demand for silver jewelry, silverware and silver coins and bars. When price of silver hit multi year lows in 2015, Indian silver imports hit a record high.
Indian Silver Imports March 2017 – March 2018
3. Solar Demand
In addition, there are many solar energy projects under way in India that require silver for the construction of solar panels. India’s silver requirements for its solar industry are estimated to be in the tens of millions of ounces a year. India recently completed the world’s largest solar production plant.
Indian Silver Monthly Imports 2014 – 2018
Indian Silver Imports vs. Global Silver Mining Production
To put India’s demand in context, India imported about 273 million ounces of silver in 2015. This is about a third of the approximately 850 million ounces of silver mined in the world in 2015. India’s silver demand shows no signs of abating. In March 2018, India imported 504 tons or approximately 16.2 million ounces of silver, which is nearly equivalent to the 18 million one ounce American Silver Eagle coins the U.S. Mint sold in 2017.
The 1,387 tons (44.6 million ounces) of Indian silver imports in the first quarter of 2018 were roughly equivalent to the record 47 million one ounce American Silver Eagle coins sold in 2015.
This article by BGASC is not, and should not be regarded as, investment advice or as a recommendation regarding any particular course of action.