China December coal imports fall from record high in prior month

15-Jan-2022 Intellasia | Reuters | 5:02 AM Print This Post

China’s coal imports fell in December, slipping from November’s 11-month high, as domestic coal miners boosted output to record levels and utilities slowed the pace of replenishing inventories.

China, the world’s largest coal buyer, imported 30.95 million tonnes of coal in December, down 11.7 percent from November, figures from the general Administration of Customs of China showed on Friday.

That compares to 35.05 million tonnes in November and 39.08 million tonnes in December 2020 when Beijing relaxed import restrictions for some power plants to meet surging demand for heating.

Chinese traders have been slowing overseas coal purchases after domestic miners responded to Beijing’s call to ensure energy supply during winter by driving up output to a record high, while domestic coal prices more than halved.

Coal inventory at Chinese utilities reached more than 35 million tonnes in early December, the highest level in at least three years, and has since been falling as the winter heating season reaches the half-way mark.

For full year 2021, coal shipments reached 323.22 million tonnes, up from 303.99 million tonnes a year ago, customs said.

Unlike the previous two years, China did not impose an unofficial imports cap in 2021 amid efforts to ensure stable coal supplies to ease nationwide electricity shortages and to tame runaway coal prices.

However, an unofficial ban on coal imports from Australia was kept in place.

China’s coal imports are expected to slide in January after Indonesia, its biggest coal supplier, suspended exports on January 1 after its state power utility reported dangerously low stock levels of the fuel at its domestic power stations.

However, Chinese traders expect the impact to be limited as utilities are holding hefty stockpiles and power demand is set to weaken ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays, which start on January 31.


Category: China

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