Asia becomes Bolivia's main minerals market
by Rene Quenallata Paredes
LA PAZ, July 22 (Xinhua) -- Asia has become Bolivia's main market for mineral exports, overtaking the United States, in the past three years due to better export conditions and prices, according to the Bolivian mining ministry.
In 2017, Asia received 61 percent of Bolivia's minerals exports, including zinc, gold, silver, lead, tin and copper, valued at more than 2.3 billion U.S. dollars.
Meanwhile, the U.S. demand for Bolivia's minerals fell from 256 million dollars' worth of imports in 2015 to 59 million dollars in 2017.
Up to 2014, an average of 40 percent of the South American country's mineral exports went to the United States.
According to Hector Cordova, a former dputy mining minister, Asian markets are offering better export conditions and prices.
"Three years ago we sold gold to Switzerland and the United States, but since last year the destinations have changed. We no longer export much of anything to those countries. Everything is going towards the Asian market," Cordova said.
Minerals topped Bolivia's export list last year, accounting for 47.4 percent of total exports and amounting to 7.846 billion dollars.
Mario Flores, deputy minister of metals mining development, said mining has been the fastest growing sector in recent years, driven by a rebound in prices and a greater demand in the international market.
"The mining sector has outstripped natural gas in terms of sales ... due to the diversification of our markets, mainly to Asia, where demand grew significantly, unlike in the United States," Flores said.
The sector overcame low commodity prices with the strategy of boosting output and seeking new markets, he said.
Bolivia is home to South America's third biggest mining industry, ranking after Peru and Chile.
The Asian market is poised to consolidate its lead as Bolivia's top market in 2018, according to figures in the first quarter.
From January to March, Bolivia's mineral exports grew 24 percent in value year on year, mainly due to higher zinc, gold, antimony, lead and tungsten shipments, the ministry said.