BEIJING: China’s imports of thermal coal from its biggest supplier Australia hit 8.17 million tonnes in July, up 0.6 percent on a year earlier, customs data showed on Friday, with Australia benefiting from import declines from higher-cost rivals.
Total imports from Australia over the first seven months of the year reached 42.27 million tonnes, still down 21.4 percent on the year, the General Administration of Customs said. The number excludes lower-grade lignite.
The July volume was up 22.5 percent compared to the previous month, with Australian suppliers taking advantage of a seasonal surge in electricity demand as well as a fall in domestic output, driven by weak prices. Coal imports overall have been hit by weaker demand and a tougher customs inspection regime that has sought to restrict the entry of lower quality coal cargoes.
Australia, where coal grades are higher, has fared better than Indonesia, which saw July shipments to China fall 28 percent year on year to 2.1 million tonnes. Total shipments in the first seven months as a whole fell 45.7 percent to 16.52 million tonnes, according to customs. North Korea also continued to benefit from cheaper prices in July, shipping 2.01 million tonnes to China in July, up 52.1 percent compared to last year. Total shipments, excluding lignite, were down 9 percent year on year at 16.31 million tonnes.
From January to July, the total reached 92.4 million tonnes, down 34.4 percent on the year, and the recent devaluation of China’s currency is expected to dent volumes still further.
Demand has remained relatively weak, largely as a result of slowing rates of consumption by downstream sectors like thermal power, cement and steel, and also because of concerted state efforts to encourage the use of cleaner fuels. Spot thermal coal prices at the port of Qinhuangdao currently stand at 410 yuan per tonne, more than 20 percent lower than the start of the year.
According to data issued by the China Coal Trade and Distribution Association on Thursday, total coal sales reached 305 million tonnes in July, down 4.9 percent on the year, and have declined 7.7 percent to 1.945 billion tonnes in the first seven months of the year.