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China’s Nov coal imports from Russia jump in face of bottlenecks

China’s coal imports from Russia in November rebounded from a four-month low in the prior month despite transport bottlenecks in Russia, as utilities increased purchases to meet rising winter heating demand.

China brought in 7.16 million tonnes of coal from Russia last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Tuesday. That compared with 6.43 million tonnes in October, and 5.11 million tonnes in the same period a year earlier.

Chinese buyers favour Russian coal for its high quality and low prices, with Western countries having imposed trading sanctions on Russia after it invaded Ukraine in February in what Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

Most Russian coal exports to China are seaborne cargoes, typically transferred to Russia’s Far East ports from coal mines by rail and then shipped to northern Chinese ports. There is also small volume of cargoes transported directly to China by rail.

But eastbound rail capacity in Russia has been overwhelmed in the past months. Rising demand for Asia-bound cargoes and harsh winter weather has worsened the infrastructure bottlenecks and would limit its coal sales to China.

Arrivals of Indonesian coal in November rose 11.6% from a month earlier to 20.04 million tonnes, customs data showed. That was also up 2.8% from the same period in 2021.

China’s domestic thermal coal prices were high in November as tight curbs on movements imposed under Bejing’s then-zero COVID tolerance policy clogged transportation. That made lower-quality Indonesian coal more attractive to Chinese utilities.

But as China eases COVID controls and the logistics situation improves, domestic coal prices could fall and compete with imported cargoes, traders said.

The customs data also showed China’s coal imports from Mongolia stood at 3.77 million tonnes in November, compared with 3.81 million tonnes in October.

No coal imports from Australia were recorded in November.
Source: Reuters

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