China’s coal imports fell in May after a strong rebound in the previous month, official data showed on Thursday, as cheap domestic sources and weak demand due to Beijing’s zero-COVID curbs dented appetite for overseas cargoes.
China brought in 20.55 million tonnes in May, 2.3% lower than a year ago, according to the General Administration of Customs. It was also lower than the 23.55 million tonnes that arrived in April.
For the first five months of 2022, the world’s biggest coal consumer imported 95.96 million tonnes, down 13.6% on the year, the data also showed.
Fearing a recurrence of power shortages experienced in the second half of last year, Beijing has urged miners to ramp up output and set strict price guidance for domestic thermal coal at 570-770 yuan ($86-$116) a tonne.
Benchmark Newcastle thermal coal, meanwhile, traded at an average of $427 a tonne in May.
Tepid demand from China’s power plants and industrial sectors following weeks-long lockdowns and the suspension of businesses in several regions also weighed on coal imports.
Daily coal consumption at utilities in eight Chinese regions was recorded at about 1.6 million tonnes in late May, down 17% from a year ago, according to data compiled by China Coal Transportation and Distribution Association.
The National Development and Reform Commission said coal inventories at China’s power plants reached 159 million tonnes by end-May, up 50 million tonnes on a year ago and enough for 32 days of use.
Coal demand is expected to increase in June as industrial plants resume operations following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Residential demand is also expected to pick up in the summer months.