Volumes have tripled over the past year, led by pharmaceuticals, the outlet has reported
Italian exports to China have tripled over the past year, with shipments in February alone surging by 131% year-on-year, with no evident reason for the jump, according to Bloomberg.
Supplies of Italian goods to China rose above €3 billion ($3.3 billion) in February, substantially up from the roughly €1 billion ($1 billion) Italy exported last February, the outlet wrote on Monday.
Data provided by Bloomberg shows that the bulk of the exports were pharmaceuticals in the very specific segment of "medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses."
Almost two-thirds of Chinese imports in February consisted of goods from this segment, which were worth €1.84 billion ($2 billion), compared to just €98.5 million ($107 million) a year earlier.
There has been some speculation in the Italian media that the surge could be driven by demand from Chinese consumers for an Italian generic liver drug containing a UDCA chemical that's rumored to prevent Covid.
Following China's sudden abandonment of its zero-Covid policy, the virus may have been spreading rampantly across the country, which could be one reason behind the jump in drug imports, Bloomberg suggested.
"It's likely demand for medicines from China," a director at Eurasia Group, Peter Ceretti, explained. "Larger Italian pharma producers are shipping as much Italian-made product as they can. And perhaps some are moving German and other European Union-produced medicine into Italy for re-export to China too."
However, Italian Industria Chimica Emiliana, the world's top producer of UDCA, has annual sales of around €300 million ($326 million), which is well below overall Chinese imports, the outlet said. Moreover, China's import data provides little sign that these pharmaceuticals were delivered en masse, the article states.
Adding a layer of mystery to the export boom is the fact that it comes amid a cooling of relations between Rome and Beijing.
Italy is planning to hold talks with China on potentially quitting Beijing's 'Belt and Road' (BRI) infrastructure and investment project, the Financial Times reported last week, citing government officials.
Rome became the only G7 country to sign up to the pact in 2019, sparking harsh criticism from Washington and Brussels.
Bloomberg reported last month that Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni intended to make an announcement on Italy's participation in the BRI before the G7 summit in May, but was still undecided as to whether the memorandum of understanding should be scrapped or renewed.
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