China's coal imports decline by 42 percent during first quarter

Updated: 2015-04-14 08:45

By Du Juan(China Daily)

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The nation's coal imports declined by 41.5 percent to 49.07 million metric tons during the first three months of the year compared with the same period in 2014, as downstream demand weakened further, customs data said on Monday.

The nation imported 17.03 million tons of coal in March, 8.26 million tons less than the amount it imported in March 2014, a 32.6 percent decline.

Imported coal products have not found many takers in China as they do not have any significant advantages over the low-priced domestic products, said an unidentified source at a power station in southern Fujian province.

He said that power stations and other users will import less coal in future due to the prevailing situation.

Deng Shun, a coal analyst with ICIS Energy, a Shanghai-based energy information consultancy, said China may import less than 200 million tons of coal for the whole of this year, if domestic coal prices stay low and demand continues to remain weak.

In 2014, China imported 291 million tons of coal, 10.9 percent less than it did in 2013.

"China's coal industry is suffering from losses and a weak market due to the nation's economic slowdown," said Jiang Zhimin, vice-chairman of the China Coal Industry Association.

He said on Friday that up to 80 percent of the country's large-scale coal companies were in the red for the first two months.

According to statistics from the association, about 90 major domestic coal companies had a total deficit of 13.1 billion yuan ($2.11 billion) in the first two months.

During the same period last year, these companies had realized profit of 11.2 billion yuan.

"China's coal industry is facing more difficulties this year," Jiang said.

During the first quarter, China produced 850 million tons of coal, a 3.5 percent decline compared with the same period last year, according to the association.

Although coal output and imports declined in the first quarter, China's coal inventory is still relatively high. Official data show that the national coal inventory has been above 300 million tons for 39 months in a row.

"Overcapacity has also added to the difficulties for the coal industry," Jiang said.

"China's national coal production capacity is more than 4 billion tons and another 1 billion capacity is being built.

"Meanwhile, consumption of clean energy and other substitute for coal is increasing, which also leads to less coal use."

He said the glut in China's coal industry will remain for a long time, which means companies still have huge pressure for staying profitable.

"The export market is not rosy, either. The international coal market is saddled with excessive supplies for the moment," he said.

 China's coal imports decline by 42 percent during first quarter

Imported coal is unloaded at Lianyungang Port, Jiangsu province. The nation imported 17.03 million tons of coal in March. Wang Chun / For China Daily

(China Daily USA 04/14/2015 page14)