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China to impose monthly coal import controls, sources say

China will likely impose monthly import controls as its top economic planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission, looks set to apply a firmer grip on imported coal volumes in 2019, sources said Dec. 27.

At a meeting of the commission, or NDRC, this week, officials discussed the country's supply and demand situation for coking and thermal coal, and highlighted the need to "firmly control imports," several market sources in China told S&P Global Platts.

This would entail controlling import volumes not only on an annual basis but on a monthly basis too.

Market sources said it would be easier to manage total import volumes by introducing a monthly quota system.

According to customs data, China imported 271.19 million tonnes of coal over January to November. This exceeded the total volume of 270.9 million tonnes for the whole of last year.

The NDRC could not be reached for comment.

A China-based source said some details on import controls for next year are yet to be finalized, but the meeting would likely set the direction of imports for next year.

The agency also urged domestic coal producers to increase production of domestic coal, with output in 2019 to increase by about 100 million tonnes, according to sources.

The NDRC also stressed that a "rapid decline in [domestic coal] prices should be prevented."

S&P Global Platts and S&P Global Market Intelligence are both owned by S&P Global Inc.