COLUMN-Chinese go-slow on Australian coal imports may be starting to show – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – March 16, 2019)

LAUNCESTON, Australia, March 18 (Reuters) – China’s unofficial go-slow on clearing Australian coal through customs didn’t show up in the first two months of this year, but it may now be starting to have an impact.

Chinese coal traders are reported to have cut back on buying from Australia, the world’s largest exporter of the fuel, after the length of time taken by customs to clear cargoes reportedly doubled to at least 40 days.

The Chinese customs administration said earlier this month that it has made no changes to coal import policies nor its inspection of foreign cargoes, although a foreign ministry spokesman said environmental and safety checks have been stepped up.

The concern that China was restricting Australian coal imports led to a drop in the Australian dollar and weaker coal prices at the main export port of Newcastle.

But an analysis of China’s imports of Australian coal for the first two months of 2019 doesn’t show any dramatic changes in volumes from the same period last year.

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