Mixed Stories For China’s Iron Ore And Coal Imports

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

China’s voracious appetite for iron ore continued in September, even though Australian exports fell for the month.

But China’s imports for coal fell as the country slowed shipments to allow the unofficial 300 million tonne annual quota to be met by December 31 and not exceeded.

China’s Customs Administration said that iron ore imports were up 8.2% to 108.55 million tonnes in September from 100.36 million tonnes in August and 99.36 million tonnes in

That saw January-September imports jump nearly 11% to 868 million tonnes and on track to easily top the billion-tonne mark with three months of 2020 to go.

September’s total is less than 4% under the all-time high of 112.65 million tonnes set in July.

But Australian iron ore imports weakened – at least from the world’s biggest iron ore export port of Port Hedland.

Port Hedland is used by BHP, Fortescue Metals, and Roy Hill, plus several much smaller shippers.

The Pilbara Ports Authority said exports to China from Port Hedland fell 1% last month from August to 39.74 million tonnes from 40.16 million tonnes in August but rose 10% from the low 36.05 million tonnes a year earlier.

Total iron ore shipments from Port Hedland slipped to 45.57 million tonnes in September from 46.02 million tonnes in August but were up from the 41.97 million tonnes in September 2019.

Meanwhile, China’s coal imports again fell in September eased as China imposed restrictions so that the annual total would not top 300 million tonnes, the unofficial annual quota.

Unlike media reports in Australia of a Chinese ban on imports of coal from Australia, the real story is that restrictions on imports have been gradually tightened since July.

Coal imports fell nearly 10% to 18.68 million tonnes in September from 20.66 million tonnes in August.

That saw coal imports for the first nine months of 2020 total 239 million, down 4.4% on the same period of 2019.

That’s also only 61 million tonnes under the unofficial 300 million tonne annual quota, meaning imports will remain around 20 million tonnes a month or less for the next three months until the end of December.

Monthly imports have fallen 26% from 25.29 million tonnes in June.

About Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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