Tonnage of rock from Land Down Under went up 9.4% year-on-year
China's coal imports from key supplier Australia surged in January from a year ago, customs data showed on Saturday, boosted by strong demand at utilities amid freezing weather.
The world's top coal consumer brought in 7.94 million tons of coal from Australia last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed, up 9.4 percent year-on-year. That compares with 8.07 million tons in December.
Indonesian coal supplies jumped almost 40 percent in January from a year ago to 5.04 million tons, one of the highest monthly totals for the country since 2014.
The surge is a big recovery from December when delays at loading ports in Indonesia as a result of heavy rain slowed arrivals to just 1.7 million tons.
Buyers of Indonesian coal had also been holding back orders of the fuel as new shipping rules for coal and crude palm oil issued by Jakarta are expected to restrict exports to Indonesian vessels. The regulation will take effect at the end of April.
With several bouts of freezing weather sweeping across China in late January and early February, some coal-fired power plants warned of tight supplies of the fuel as their inventories fell below critical levels due to record daily consumption.
Data released this month showed that China brought in a total of 27.81 million tons of coal in January, the highest level in four years.
"Imported coal will continue to play a key role as a supplement of domestic coal until mid-March as heating demand in northern China remains robust," said a trader based in Zhengzhou, capital of Central China's Henan Province, adding that coal imports may tighten again afterward.
The heating season in northern China typically ends on March 15.
Vessel-tracking and port data compiled by Thomson Reuters Supply Chain and Commodity Forecasts suggest that China will import about 21.68 million tons of seaborne coal in February.
Thermal coal prices on the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange hit 679.8 yuan ($107.34) a ton on January 29, up from around 390 yuan year-on-year.
To ensure stable coal supplies, State- and local-level authorities have ordered miners to ramp up production and asked ports to speed up the process of receiving seaborne coal.
Prices of spot cargoes of thermal coal from Australia's Port of Newcastle touched a 13-month-high at $109.50 on January 17.
Shipments from Russia also rose in January, increasing 43 percent to 2.53 million tons. That compares with December's 2.14 million tons.