China’s Coal Imports From Russia Surged in the First Two Months of 2023

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The strong restocking demand from Beijing after lifting its zero-COVID regime boosted China’s average daily coal imports from Russia in the first two months of 2023.

According to the General Administration of Customs data, “imported volumes reached 14.8 million tonnes, or 250,892 tonnes per day, making Russia China’s second-biggest coal supplier.”

China’s coal imports from Russia rose drastically after the country invaded Ukraine, as Western powers imposed economic sanctions on Moscow. The resulting drop in Russian coal prices attracted buyers who were not participants in these sanctions, and consequently, China took advantage of this opportunity.

However, Russia’s transport infrastructure issues have impacted coal shipments to China since October. This has disrupted the coal trade, and industry experts believe this trend will likely continue.

Australian coal will likely make up a small portion of China’s coal imports, as the country has access to cheaper Russian cargoes and domestic mines.

February saw 207,236 tonnes enter the country following Beijing lifting an unofficial ban in early January. 

Meanwhile, March and April are expected to bring more Australian coal cargoes, mainly thermal coal, for power generation. 

Australia’s Coronado Global Resources states that the “return of Chinese metallurgical coal imports will probably increase seaborne coal prices in the near future, with high realised prices in 2022 increasing its yearly revenue.”

Nevertheless, the resumption of imports will likely maintain China’s coal supply structure significantly. 

The purchase of YIT’s local assets saw Etalon report a 332 per cent jump in net profit for 2022. This is part of a broader trend as Western companies continue withdrawing from the Russian market, creating opportunities for domestic businesses.

In any case, Russia and Australia’s resumption of supplies have been a welcome boost for China, and the country will undoubtedly be hoping to maintain a steady flow of coal imports in the months ahead. 

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