Australian coal sales to China increased in May, as trade resumed between them even as overall coal demand weakened against an uncertain macroeconomic backdrop and record high stocks at ports and power plants.
China imported 5.42 million metric tons of Australian coal last month, data from its General Administration of Customs showed on Tuesday.
The figure represents a 39.5% increase on April and was above the 4.47 million metric tons in September 2020, just before China implemented an unofficial ban on Australian coal imports.
Russia’s coal trade with China also strengthened last month. May imports from Russia were 8.96 million metric tons, up 10.7% from 8.10 million metric tons in April.
China’s weaker-than-expected economic recovery and malaise in the property and manufacturing sectors have weighed on overall demand, however, leading total coal imports to slip 2.7% month-on-month in May.
China’s state planner, the National Reform and Development Commission (NDRC), said in June that coal stocks at power plants were the highest on record, with inventories totalling 187 million metric tons.
Falling domestic coal prices have also dragged down import prices. Domestic thermal coal with energy content of 5,500 kilocalories (kcal) at Chinese northern ports was traded at about 770 yuan ($108.14) per metric ton at the end of May, versus $99 per metric ton for imported coal of similar quality at southern Chinese ports on a cost-and-freight (CFR) basis.
Downward pricing pressure and high inventories capped coal imports from Indonesia and Mongolia.
Customs data on Tuesday showed Indonesian coal arrivals last month were 18.31 million metric tons, down 12.8% from April’s 21.0 million metric tons.
Mongolian coal arrivals in May were 4.54 million metric tons, down 16.4% on April’s 5.43 million metric tons.