Coal Imports Into China Increased 17% in May, Driven by Rebounding Economy

China, the world’s second-biggest energy user, increased coal imports by 17 percent in May because of a rebound in the economy.

Coal purchases rose to 11 million metric tons in May from a year earlier, according to data released today by the General Administration of Customs. Imports reached a record 16.4 million tons in December, Bloomberg data showed.

China paid an average $109 a ton for delivered coal in May, about 11 percent higher than the previous month, according to the data. The country paid $77 a ton for the fuel a year earlier, reflecting a surge in coal prices as China turned into a net importer last year.

The nation imported as much as 126 million tons of coal last year after being a net exporter in the past, as mine closures, high local freight rates and an increase in domestic prices gave Indonesia and Australia a price advantage, Richard Morse, who leads coal market research at Stanford University, said last month.

Indonesian shipments cost $74 a ton on delivered basis while Colombian supplies, which are being diverted to Asia away from traditional markets in Europe, cost $112 a ton, according to the data. Australian coal, which typically includes both thermal and coking coal varieties, cost $164 a ton, supplies from Russia cost $138 and shipments from Vietnam averaged $72.

Coal prices at Newcastle, an Asian benchmark, rose 1.1 percent to $100.39 a ton in the week to June 18, according to the globalCOAL NEWC Index. Prices at South Africa’s Richards Bay averaged $93.29 a ton in the week to June 11 while those at Puerto Bolivar, Colombia, were $79.50 for the fortnight ended June 11.

China’s benchmark coal prices at Qinhuangdao, the country’s largest port for the fuel, were at $111 a ton as of June 21, according to China Coal Transport and Distribution Association.

Indonesia was the biggest supplier to China followed by Australia, Vietnam, Mongolia and Russia, according to customs data. The country also received supplies from Colombia, the U.S. and Canada.

Indonesian supplies almost doubled to 2.7 million tons in May from a year earlier, customs said. Australian shipments fell 34 percent to 2.41 million tons, followed by Vietnam at 1.73 million tons, Mongolia at 1.2 million tons, Russia at 1.04 million tons and Colombia at 454,232 tons. The country didn’t get supplies from South Africa last month.

Imports of coal by China in the first quarter of this year more than tripled to 44.4 million tons, according to customs data.

--Dinakar Sethuraman in Singapore and Baizhen Chua in Beijing. Editors: Jane Lee, Alex Devine.

To contact the reporters on this story: Dinakar Sethuraman in Singapore at dinakar@bloomberg.net; Chua Baizhen in Beijing at bchua@bloomberg.net.

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