China’s coal imports rebounded in March from a two-year low in February, but were still 40% lower than the corresponding period last year, as buyers turned away from expensive imports and turned to the domestic supply at capped prices.
The world’s largest consumer of coal, China imported 16.42 million tonnes of coal last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Wednesday.
This compares to 11.23 million tonnes in February, which was the lowest level since December 2019, and 27.33 million tonnes in March 2021.
During the first quarter of 2022, China imported 51.81 million tonnes of coal, down 24.2% year on year.
Indonesia, China’s biggest coal supplier, imposed a shock coal export ban for a month in January.
Industry sources have estimated that China’s coal imports could fall by up to 30% this year as domestic production remains at a record high and strong demand for non-Russian supplies keeps import prices above those of the internal market.
With Australia’s import restrictions and fears of secondary sanctions on purchases from Russia, Chinese traders have little choice in the marine coal market, especially as global coal benchmarks are almost double domestic prices.
Beijing aims to keep national coal production at 12.6 million tonnes per day in 2022, cap thermal coal prices and has urged utilities to sign long-term contracts with miners to ensure stable supply.
Chinese utilities typically begin to replenish inventory in late April or May in anticipation of peak electricity demand in the summer. But a resurgence of COVID-19 across China that has limited mobility and halted factory operations could lower demand for coal.
Daily coal consumption by utilities in China’s eight coastal provinces hit 1.62 million tons last week, down 9.6 percent from the previous week and 12 percent lower than a year ago. year, according to data tracked by China Coal Transportation and Distribution.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Muyu Xu and Dominique Patton; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)