(Bloomberg) -- China has nearly doubled imports of Russian aluminum in the year since the invasion of Ukraine, as some western buyers shun the metal from the major commodity supplier.

Imports of refined aluminum from Russia surged 94% to about 538,600 metric tons between March 2022 and February 2023 from the previous 12 months, according to Chinese customs data. That’s a record annual volume on a moving-average basis. 

The significant metal inflows into China were largely expected as some western traders and shipping companies are snubbing supplies from Russia, the largest aluminum producer after China. The US this month imposed a 200% tariff on all imports of Russian-made aluminum, which is expected to effectively end those purchases. 

Chinese imports of Russian aluminum, if sustained, will play a role in putting a floor under Russia production, Capital Economics said in a note on Tuesday. United Co. Rusal International PJSC, the country’s biggest producer, said last week that the company’s output rose 2% last year to 3.84 million tons, or 5.6% of the world’s total. 

The metal flow into China is likely to remain elevated. Commodity trader Trafigura Group is in talks to buy about 150,000 tons of aluminum from Rusal on a delivered-China basis, people familiar with the matter said late last month. That’s even as its rival Glencore Plc, formerly a leading buyer of Rusal’s metal, said it won’t renew any trading business for Russian commodities. 

Meanwhile, exports from China to Russia of alumina — the raw material for aluminum — surged to 1.08 million tons in the year to February, up from about 2,300 tons in the 12 previous months, according to Chinese customs data.

China shipped the alumina to Russia to fill the supply gap faced by Rusal following a halt at its Nikolaev refinery in Ukraine and Australia’s ban of shipments of the raw material after the Ukraine invasion. Rusal’s alumina output fell 28% to 5.95 million tons last year after the stoppage at Nikolaev refinery, according to its annual financial report. 

(Updates with Rusal’s alumina output in last paragraph.)

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