Chinese January coal imports hit multi-year high: customs data

Feb 28, 2018

China imported 11.75 million mt of thermal coal in January, up 23% from 9.58 million mt in the year-ago month, and 30% compared with December, the highest monthly total since April 2014, according to customs data.

Bituminous coal accounted for 7.48 million mt, or 63.65%, down marginally from 7.6 million mt in December and up 19% from 6.31 million mt last January.

Sub-bituminous coal imports totaled 4.27 million, up nearly threefold from 1.51 million mt in December and 31% higher than January 2017’s 3.27 million mt.

Australia was the largest supplier of bituminous coal to China with 4.65 million mt in January, down 13% month on month from December’s 16-month high of 5.34 million mt, but up 10% year on year from 4.21 million mt.

Russia supplied the second-largest amount for the second consecutive month with 1.53 million mt, up 37% month on month from 1.11 million mt and 35% year on year from 1.13 million mt.

Indonesia accounted for 1.1 million mt of China’s bituminous coal imports in January, up 94% from December’s total of 565,854 mt and 32% from 833,930 mt in the year-ago period.

The data also showed 75,868 mt of bituminous coal imported from the US in January, with no imports recorded in the previous month, and just 209,395 mt in the entirety of 2017.


Sub-bituminous imports were almost entirely from Indonesia at 3.91 million mt, up more than threefold month on month from 1.1 million mt, and 38% year on year from 2.84 million mt.

China’s other sub-bituminous imports were from Russia at 78,906 mt, up 31% month on month from 60,100 mt and a more than sixfold jump from 11,562 mt in the year-ago period.

Lignite imports in January totaled 10.2 million mt, the largest in a single month since S&P Global Platts began collecting the data in 2012. Indonesia accounted for 91.37%, with 9.32 million mt, also the highest monthly total since Platts began collecting the data.

Sources said the high imports in January were likely due to unusually cold temperatures combined with pre-Lunar New Year purchasing activity from utilities.

Platts CFR South China 4,700 kcal/kg NAR price rose throughout January to $79.80/mt by the month’s end, the highest level since November 2016, having begun the month at $74.45/mt.