China’s alumina exports soared again last month, as buyers in Russia sought to plug a shortfall because of war and sanctions.

The 190,000 tons shipped in May brings the year-to-date figure to 380,000 tons, nearly 1,000% higher than the same period in 2021. Given the weakness of China’s economy, sales of the key raw material for aluminum are likely to remain elevated for as long as Russian shortages persist.

Other notable trade flows for metals in the second batch of trade data for May include a drop in imports of steel products to their lowest since 2000. Along with heavy losses in iron ore prices, the data suggest ongoing weakness in China’s construction market.

China’s energy markets saw big drops in gasoline and diesel exports, with around a third of domestic fuel-processing capacity currently out of action as the economy struggles to emerge from the recent virus outbreak. Diesel sales tumbled to the lowest in seven years.

And for agriculture, China reduced its corn and wheat imports in May as international prices of the grains surged in the wake of the war in Ukraine, while purchases of rice and sorghum doubled or more as animal feed buyers looked for cheaper substitutes, said Lin Guofa, head of research at consultancy Bric Agriculture Group.