China's annual aluminium output in 2022 rose 4.5% from the previous year to a record high, reaching 40.21 million tonnes with a boost from newly launched capacity and a relaxation of power supply restrictions.
Primary aluminium output for December was 3.43 million tonnes, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said, up slightly from 3.41 million tonnes in November and 10.3% higher than a year earlier.
Smelters' profitability also improved in December, with local industry information provider Mysteel estimating a monthly increase of 288 yuan ($42.63) a tonne in smelter profit because of higher spot prices.
December output worked out to about 110,645 tonnes a day, versus about 113,667 tonnes in November.
In general, 2022 brought a ramp-up in production by smelters due to a loosening of restrictions on electricity use, coupled with the launch of new capacity, mainly in Inner Mongolia in the north and Guangxi and Yunnan provinces in the southwest.
Rising domestic supply amid weak, pandemic-hit demand pressured prices of the light metal, which is used in construction, transportation and packaging sectors.
The most-traded aluminium contract listed on Shanghai Futures Exchange averaged 18,685 yuan a tonne in 2022, down from 19,940 yuan in the prior year.
A pickup in domestic aluminium demand is likely in 2023, with China anticipating a recovery in the property sector after the easing of COVID measures, according to a metals analyst at S&P Global Commodity Insights.
Continued growth in new energy vehicle and photovoltaic sectors can also add support.
Output is expected to rise further in response to stronger demand.
CITIC Futures Research forecasts output will reach 42.44 million tonnes this year, up about 6% on 2022.