China’s coking coal imports fall in May

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China’s coking coal imports fell in May, with Mongolian imports slow to return to pre-Covid-19 lockdown levels and tighter import restrictions limiting port arrivals.

China imported 4.76mn t of coking coal in May, down by 23pc from 6.21mn t in April and down by 19pc from a year earlier, according to Chinese customs data. January-May imports rose by 3pc to 30.78mn t.

China has limited Australian coal imports to support its domestic thermal coal markets, with coking coal also affected after China’s state-backed coal transportation and distribution association called for tightened restrictions.

Seaborne imports rose by 28pc to 3.1mn t in May from a year earlier, a slower pace than the more than 5mn t imports in both March and April.

Australian imports increased by 50pc to 2.07mn t from a year earlier. But these were less than half the 4.47mn t in April. January-May Australian imports rose by 76pc to 20.76mn t, already two-thirds the way to Australia’s 2019 total of 30.94mn t.

The fall from April came after Chinese customs slowed clearing of cargoes at the main ports in China. Wide price premiums in China’s domestic market has undermined the restrictions. Weaker ex-China coal demand has also forced Australian coking coal producers to divert sales with other key consumers such as India and Japan still affected by Covid-19 lockdowns.

The Argus spot price assessment for premium low-volatile hard coking coal averaged $115.06/t fob Australia in May, down by 12pc from $130.41/t a month earlier.

Mongolian imports fell by 52pc to 1.71mn t against a year earlier but more than doubled from 775,241t in April. Mongolia reopened its border in late March after halting shipments during its lockdowns.

Shipments from Canada rose from a year earlier and April to take the January-May total up by 88pc to 2.26mn t. Russian imports fell by 37pc from a year earlier and by 38pc from April. Russian imports during January-May were up by 3pc from the same period a year earlier.

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