LAUNCESTON, Australia, Oct 3 (Reuters) – China’s coal import data for August flung up an interesting anomaly in the form of renewed imports from North Korea, but of far more interest is the surge in cargoes from Russia.
Customs data showed that China imported 1.6 million tonnes from North Korea in August, the first allowed since February when Beijing tightened sanctions against its neighbour as part of international efforts to restrict the isolated dictatorship’s nuclear weapons programme.
While this generated media headlines, it’s likely nothing more than a blip as Beijing had already said it would allow North Korean cargoes stranded at Chinese ports by the sanctions to be cleared. What is more interesting is how Russia has effectively supplanted North Korea as a supplier of relatively good quality coal to China.
China’s imports from Russia were 2.47 million tonnes in August, taking the year-to-date figure to 17.25 million tonnes, a gain of 41 percent over the same period last year.
That equates to about an extra 5 million tonnes from Russia so far this year, while imports from North Korea have dropped by just over 10 million tonnes.