COLUMN-China coal imports to rebound in January, rest of 2020 is cloudy – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – January 20, 2020)

LAUNCESTON, Australia, Jan 20 (Reuters) – China’s coal imports are likely to show an impressive bounce in January after customs delays crimped December clearances, but questions remain as to the outlook for 2020 as a whole.

December imports were just 2.27 million tonnes, according to customs data released on Jan. 14, taking the full year figure to 299.7 million tonnes, up 6.3% from 2018.

It’s clear that most cargoes that arrived in December weren’t cleared by customs, most likely as part of efforts to limit growth in annual coal imports.

Without setting a formal target, the message from officials in Beijing to the coal industry had been that they wanted 2019 imports to be much the same as the 2018’s 281.2 million tonnes.

While 2019’s imports were 18.5 million tonnes higher, the slowing of clearances in December did mean the total for the year stayed below the big round figure of 300 million tonnes.

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