China imported 20.68 million mt of thermal coal in May, up by about 19.3% from April and 34.8% from a year ago, according to the coal import data released by the General Administration of Customs on Sunday.
According to the data, China imported 9.89 million mt of lignite in May, up 2.49% month on month, while import of bituminous coal was up 40.31% from 7.69 million mt in April to 10.79 million mt in May.
Total coal imports from January to May, including coking coal, was 127.39 million mt, up 5.5% from 120.73 million mt a year ago. Last year, China’s overall coal import was around 281 million mt, with thermal coal accounting for about 74% of the total volume.
“A few power plants had called for tenders in April and there were more deals that month too, so most of the shipments have probably reached China in May,” an east China-based trader said.
“Some power plants are worried that import policy might be tightened later in the year, so they are procuring the cargoes earlier,” the same trader said.
Market activities during mid-March and April had picked up after a major industry event in China in early April. Several trades were reportedly concluded for Australian high-ash 5,500 kcal/kg NAR grade of coal when it hit a multi-year low of around $55/mt FOB Newcastle in mid-March and also amid the prospect of a relaxation of the import curbs on Australian cargoes.
Deals for over 1 million mt of Colombian coal were also reportedly concluded in April, according to market sources.
China’s custom authorities are looking to keep this year’s imports at levels similar to that of last year, but there has been no official announcement with regards to this, industry sources said.
Source: S&P Global Platts