China’s Coal Purchases Drop to 23-Month Low on Higher Prices

China’s net imports of coal dropped to the lowest in 23 months in February after prices increased and demand fell during the Lunar New Year holiday, customs data showed today.

Net purchases of the power-station fuel slumped 67 percent to 5 million metric tons last month from January, according to data released by the Beijing-based Administration of Customs.

Higher global coal prices hampered China’s imports of the fuel. The weeklong Chinese Lunar New Year break also reduced demand from the world’s largest energy user, said David Fang, head of the international department at China Coal Transport and Distribution Association.

“Coal purchased dropped significantly because of the delayed effect of higher global prices,” Fang said by telephone from Beijing today. “Domestic coal demand will stay weak in coming months as the weather gets warmer and hydro-power generation increases.”

China paid $114 a ton for the fuel last month, compared with an average $102.70 last year. Coal imports from Indonesia, China’s largest supplier of the fuel, fell 56 percent from a year earlier to 2.48 million tons, at $83 a ton. Coal purchases from Australia, the second biggest, fell 54 percent to 1.52 million tons, at $169 a ton. That compares with $147 a ton in 2010 for the Australian varieties and $79 a ton for the Indonesian fuel.

Chinese power plants’ inventories of coal fell to 53.9 million tons at the end of February, or enough for 16 days of supply, the China Electricity Council said on March 18.

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