Singapore — China's coking coal imports in May plunged 68% year on year to 1.88 million mt -- the lowest since March 2009 -- as volumes from Australia and Mongolia plummeted, according to data released late Wednesday by the General Administration of Customs.
Receive daily email alerts, subscriber notes & personalize your experience.Register Now
May imports were nearly half of April's 3.75 million mt.
Imports from top supplier Australia fell 67% year on year and fell 43% from April to 970,000 mt in May.
Coking coal imports from Mongolia, China's second-largest supplier, fell 66% year on year and fell 59% from April to 534,206 mt in May.
Russian imports were 274,354 mt in May, down 48% from a year ago but up 20% from April.
China's appetite for higher-quality met coal imports to feed its massive coastal steel mills from 2007-2013 drove prices to record highs.
But its appetite for imports has ebbed due to a feeble steel sector and government mandates to protect its domestic coal industry.
Over the first five months of this year, China's coking coal imports fell 35% year on year to 16.56 million mt.
The sharp decline in May import was unexpected as there had been reasonable spot trading liquidity for mid-to-end-April cargoes, according to market participants.
Platts observed about 2 million mt of mid-to-end-April laycan hard coking coal volumes, meant for May arrival.
"This year's volumes are definitely lower, but the likely explanation for such a low May number is that many shipment loadings could have been delayed," a Jingtang port stocks trader said.