China’s December coking coal imports hit 2020 low

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China's December coking coal imports fell to the lowest level in 2020 as Australian shipments dropped to zero because of an informal import ban, while Chinese mills ramped up offtake of non-Australian origin coal.

China imported 3.57mn t of coking coal last month, down by 4pc from 3.72mn t in November but up by 110pc from December 2019, according to Chinese customs data. The country's overall 2020 imports fell by 3pc on the year.

China's December seaborne imports surged by 1,470pc from a year earlier, while the 2020 total rose by 20pc on the year. The spike in seaborne imports came as Chinese buyers scrambled to restock non-Australian origin coal because they were unable to import Australian coal.

Arrivals from Canada rose by 63pc from a month earlier to 510,000t in December, the highest in seven months. Russian imports increased to a record high in December, driven mainly by robust Chinese demand for Russian coal with shorter waiting times for customs clearance, particularly pulverised coal injection (PCI). US imports also rose by 80pc on the month in December.

The Argus premium low-volatile hard coking coal price delivered on a cfr China basis climbed by 65pc from early November to $201/t on 31 December, the highest since May 2019. The Argus premium low-volatile hard coking coal price on a fob Australia basis fell by $4.90/t, or 5pc, to $103.50/t over the same period, further widening the spread between fob Australia and cfr China to almost $100/t.

There were no shipments from Australia in December, as Chinese mills shunned Australian coal after Beijing imposed an informal ban on such imports in early October. But Australian imports for the whole of 2020 rose by 15pc from a year earlier.

Mongolian imports fell to an eight-month low in December as a resurgence of Covid-19 cases since November compelled stricter checks at the borders of both countries, largely reducing the number of trucks passing daily. Mongolian imports for the whole of 2020 fell by 30pc from a year earlier.

By Dylan Wong

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