Propelled by rapid economic growth, China's imports of iron ore surged 23.3 percent in the first four months of 2007 from a year earlier, according to the General Administration of Customs (GAC).
Iron ore imports rose to 133.6 million tons from 108.3 million tons in the same period last year, the GAC said. It added that April imports hit 33.4 million tons.
China's double-digit economic growth has boosted the growth in iron ore imports as well as steel consumption. China's economy expanded 11.1 percent in the first three months after rising 10.7 percent in 2006.
Analysts said the iron ore imports for the whole year of 2007 were set to beat the earlier forecast of 355 million tons by the China Iron and Steel Association.
As the world's biggest producer and consumer of steel, China imported a record 325 million tons of iron ore and produced 419 million tons of crude steel last year.
Luo Bingsheng, deputy chief of the China Iron and Steel Association, said on Tuesday that domestic steel firms should buy or jointly develop more overseas iron mines.
Luo said that in order to guarantee stable supply in the medium and long term China needed to control at least a third of world iron ore resources.
China imported 5.9 million tons of steel products, but exported 21.3 million tons between January and April, according to the General Administration of Customs. Exports soared 132 percent from the 9.2 million tons in the same period last year.
In April exports rocketed to a monthly record of 7.16 million tons.
Analysts said steel producers were rushing exports out the door as the country removed tax rebates on 83 steel product exports and lowered the rate on 76 others to five percent as of April 15.
Steel firms also knew that 83 steel products will come under an export license management regime from May 20 and were reacting to speculation that, in a move to counter the widening trade surplus, the nation will introduce export tariffs on low-end steel products to rein in steel exports.
(Xinhua News Agency May 17, 2007)