Indians are known to have a love affair with gold. India ranks as the number two gold-consuming country in the world behind only China.  But Indians are also pretty fond of silver. In fact, India is the world's biggest silver consumer. 

And Indian silver demand is surging.

Silver imports skyrocketed by 260 percent in February, hitting a record high of 2,295 tons. That was up from 637 tons in January, according to a report in the Economic Times of India. 

The Times said this surge in Indian silver buying "could support global prices trading near their highest in three years."

To put the import surge into perspective, India imported 3,625 tons for all of 2023.

According to a silver importer quoted by the Times, the big import numbers were necessary to replenish stocks that were depleted last year. 

Indian imports are cyclical in nature. In one year, imports may be very high, and then the following year they may fall. Since imports fell in 2023 after record buying in 2022, we can expect imports to pick up in 2024.

Some analysts project India could import upward of 6,000 tons of silver this year. Strong demand for silver in solar panel production is one of the factors reportedly driving overall Indian silver demand higher. 

The silver supply is already strained by robust demand. 

Industrial silver demand is projected to rise 8 percent to a record 632 million ounces this year, pushing overall offtake to near-record levels. 

According to the Silver Institute, investment in photovoltaics, power grid, and 5G networks, growth in consumer electronics, and rising vehicle production all helped drive industrial demand higher.

And there is no sign that demand will lag in the foreseeable future.

According to a 2022 research paper by scientists at the University of New South Wales, solar manufacturers could consume over 20 percent of the current annual silver supply by 2027. And by 2050, solar panel production will use approximately 85–98 percent of the current global silver reserves.

On the supply side, global mined silver is anticipated to fall by 2 percent year-on-year to 820 million ounces, driven by lower output from operations in Mexico and Peru. 

With a combination of historically high demand and falling mine output, the Silver Institute projected a 140 million-ounce market deficit in 2023. And that deficit appears likely to widen further in 2024.

Silver isn't priced for these supply and demand dynamics. This could present a great investment opportunity.

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