As China plays a decisive role in impacting global coal demand and market evolution, it seems necessary to have a deep and complete understanding of China’s coal import figures and underlying factors.
China’s coal imports maintained robust growth in September, mainly due to considerable price advantage of overseas coal over domestic supply and as end users tried to diversify purchases to ensure supply.
Coal imports rose by a sharp 20.49% on the year to 30.29 million tonnes last month, staying above 30 million tonnes for three months in a row, showed data released by Chinese customs.
A total 251 million tonnes of coal was imported into China from January to September, up 9.5% from a year ago. This made it hard for China to cap this year’s imports at 2018 level considering rising winter heating demand.
By the end of October, China’s coal imports are expected to reach 276 million tonnes, quite approximating last year’s 281 million tonnes, according to Reuters calculation. Industry insiders predicted China may see coal imports grow over 10% on a year-to-year basis in 2019.
Thermal coal (including bituminous and sub-bituminous coals) occupied the largest share of 44.7% of China’s coal imports in September, followed by lignite at 27.6%, and coking coal at 26.3%.
Thermal coal In September, China’s thermal coal imports dipped 5.1% month on month yet surged 51.2% year on year to 13.55 million tonnes. The month-on-month decline came as Chinese power producers held back purchases amid high stockpiles and low consumption.
Indonesia was the largest thermal coal supplier to China in the month, shipping 6.23 million tonnes, up 19.2% on the month and 221.9% over the year. Australia, the second largest, shipped 5.06 million tonnes to China, down 23.5% from a month earlier but gaining 18.5% compared with the year before.
Lignite China’s lignite coal imports dropped 9.6% from the month-ago level and 1.6% year on year to 8.37 million tonnes in September.
Around 82.7% of China’s imports of the low rank coal were from Indonesia. The Southeast Asian country’s lignite coal supplies to China were down 11.2% month on month and 15.8% on the year to 6.92 million tonnes in September.
Coking coal In September, coking coal imports by China descended 12.2% from August but leapt 20.6% from the preceding year to 7.97 million tonnes.
Mongolia was the largest coking coal supplier to China in September, with shipment of 3.59 million tonnes, decreasing 3.9% month on month despite a year-on-year pickup of 11.5%; followed was Australia with shipments totaling 3.24 million tonnes, a drop of 27.9% month on month but up 21.9% from a year ago.
The above two countries supplied 6.83 million tonnes of coking coal to China in September, accounting for 85.7% of China’s total coking coal imports.