Taiwan’s ITA denies exporting gunpowder raw material to Russia

Taiwan’s ITA reports no production or exports of high-density nitrocellulose. The U.S. Treasury sanctions Russian firms for importing this substance, revealing Taiwan’s role in the supply chain.

According to Taiwan’s International Trade Administration (ITA), Taiwan has implemented export restrictions on high-density nitrocellulose, a crucial precursor for explosives production in Russia. However, there have been no recorded exports of this substance from Taiwan so far.

The International Trade Administration (ITA) of Taiwan has stated that no company in the country produces high-density nitrocellulose, a precursor material used in explosives. Furthermore, the administration has not recorded any outbound sales of such explosive precursors from Taiwanese firms.

This statement from the ITA comes after the U.S. Department of Treasury announced on Wednesday that it has imposed sanctions on three Russian companies – AMS Group, Stroytekhnologiya, and Print Kolor – for their involvement in importing and supplying nitrocellulose amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

According to the U.S. Treasury, these three Russian companies have business partnerships with Russian defence enterprises, including the Kazan Gunpowder Plant, a Russian explosive and ammunition manufacturer that has already been sanctioned by the United States.

The Treasury Department stated that AMS Group is a major importer of nitrocellulose to Russia, sourcing the material from East Asia, Europe, and Central Asia. Stroytekhnologiya and Print Kolor were also identified as being among the largest Russian importers of nitrocellulose.

The U.S. Treasury stated that Russia relies heavily on external suppliers for cotton cellulose and its highly flammable byproduct, nitrocellulose – key precursor materials needed for the production of gunpowder, rocket propellants, and other explosives.

According to trade statistics from the United Nations Comtrade Database obtained by CNA in late February, the three Russian firms (AMS Group, Stroytekhnologiya, and Print Kolor) sanctioned by the U.S. had been procuring nitrocellulose made in Taiwan via Turkey.

The Comtrade data also revealed that after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, nearly 94% of Taiwan-made nitrocellulose products ultimately destined for Russia during the period from January 1, 2019, to December 31, 2023, were shipped in 2023, while only 4% were sent in 2022.

This suggests Russia may have accelerated its procurement of the explosive precursor from Taiwan through Turkish intermediaries in 2023, following the start of its war in Ukraine the previous year.

According to the International Trade Administration (ITA) of Taiwan, the global sales value of low-density nitrocellulose, which refers to products with a nitrogen content of less than 12.2%, reached US$836 million in 2023. Taiwan’s exports of such low-density nitrocellulose accounted for only 5.2% of the global total, amounting to US$43.8 million.

The ITA stated that the major buyers of Taiwan-made nitrocellulose in 2023 were Vietnam, the United States, and Malaysia, collectively accounting for 47% of Taiwan’s total exports of the material.

Significantly, the ITA added that Turkey made up only 3.1% of Taiwan’s total outbound nitrocellulose sales in 2023, while no exports to Russia or Belarus from Taiwan were registered.

Customs declaration data obtained by CNA revealed that most suppliers of nitrocellulose from China and Taiwan did not provide information regarding the nitrogen content. Instead, they simply stated that their products were used in printing and paint production for the private sector.

The data also indicated that only a small number of suppliers from China and Taiwan specified that the nitrogen content in their nitrocellulose products was 12.2% or less than 12.2%.