China’s October Coal Imports Doubled Year on Year as Winter Approaches

By Danella Pérez Schmieloz
Danella Pérez Schmieloz
Danella Pérez Schmieloz
China Reporter
November 11, 2021 Updated: November 11, 2021

China’s October coal imports nearly doubled its year-on-year for October, according to a report from the General Administration of Customs published on Nov. 7. The import increase comes as concerns escalate about power shortages, due to the approaching winter.

China bought 26.9 million tons of coal in October, which amounts to a 96.2% increase in comparison with the same term during the previous year.

The numbers for October were less than September, when China’s coal imports peaked at 32.9 million tons. The large purchases come as Chinese people have been suffering severe power outages, which intensified in September.

Three northeastern provinces—which face extreme cold in the winter—went through “unexpected and unprecedented” power cuts on Sep. 27, reported state-run tabloid Global Times.

More than two-thirds of China’s electricity comes from burning thermal coal.

Coal scarcity was aggravated in the beginning of October as key coal mining regions were hit by torrential rain, adding further strain on the country’s tight coal supply.

Production shortages, high fuel prices, and booming post-pandemic industrial demand have sparked widespread power shortages.

Chinese coal prices have gained nearly 190 percent this year on tight supplies as a result of stringent safety inspections and anti-corruption probes at major mining regions.

Analysts have estimated that a majority of coal-fired power plants in China run at a loss, while the National Energy Administration since July has been warning that a number of power firms in northwestern and northeastern China were facing operational difficulties because of coal shortages.

China took its steps in October with power reform by allowing coal-fired power plants to pass on higher costs to some customers, with an aim to encourage power plants to generate more electricity and ease their profitability pressures.

Shortage and surging costs caused thermal coal prices to rise, reaching 1,640 yuan ($254.44) per tonne on Oct. 13, tripling the price at the start of 2021.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Danella Pérez Schmieloz