China's iron ore imports experienced a notable surge in the month of May, reflecting a 3.95% increase compared to the previous year, according to customs data unveiled on Wednesday. The world's largest consumer of iron ore brought in a total of 96.18 million tonnes of this vital steelmaking ingredient in May 2023, surpassing the 92.52 million tonnes recorded in May 2022. Moreover, the import volume for May exceeded the 90.44 million tonnes registered in April. From January to May 2023, China's iron ore imports amounted to a total of 481 million tonnes, marking a 7.7% increase compared to the previous year.One significant contributing factor to the increased demand for iron ore has been the improved steel margins resulting from a significant decline in raw material prices. Consequently, steel mills have been motivated to purchase more of this crucial ingredient. In May, the most-traded September iron ore futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange dropped by 1.7%, while coking coal and coke prices experienced declines of 12.2% and 11.6% respectively. Additionally, rebar prices dipped by 6.4% and hot-rolled coil prices by 4.8%.The profitability of the surveyed steel mills witnessed a notable rise, reaching 34.2% by the end of May, up from 26.41% in late April, as per data from Mysteel. Cheng Peng, an analyst at Sinosteel Futures in Beijing, suggested that the combination of sluggish economic recovery in overseas countries and persistently high iron ore prices could have incentivized miners to increase shipments to China.In addition to the surge in iron ore imports, China's exports of steel products in May witnessed a significant rise of 7.7% year-on-year, reaching 8.36 million tonnes, the highest figure since September 2016. Between January and May, steel product exports from China increased by 40.9% compared to the same period last year, totaling 36.37 million tonnes.Conversely, China's imports of steel products experienced a decline, with only 631,000 tonnes imported in May, down from 806,000 tonnes in May 2022. The cumulative imports for the first five months of this year amounted to 3.13 million tonnes, reflecting a 37.1% decrease compared to the previous year.