China's coal import is predicted to further increase this year based on last year's import of 10.81 million tons despite the fact China is the world's top producer and second largest exporter of coal.
Customs information shows that the major importers are economically developed provinces along China's eastern coastal region like Guangdong and Zhejiang. The coal mainly came from Australia, Vietnam, South Africa and Russia for the purpose of electricity generation.
The rapid economic growth of these provinces has boosted the demand for electricity, and thus an increased demand for coal. However, more cost in domestic transportation made the two provinces import coal rather than buy coal from other Chinese areas.
Importing cost less since a freight train from the country's coal-yielding north to the needy coastal markets can carry merely several thousand tons. However, an international cargo ship is capable of bearing 20,000 to 100,000 tons.
Meanwhile, the relatively low price in the sluggish world coal market also stimulated imports. Imports via Guangdong, for instance, cost 29.55 US dollars per ton on the average in 2002, down by 23.6 percent from 38.66 US dollars the previous year.
Experts warn that with the relaxing limit of market entry, domestic coal producers will face increasing competition from the outside even though last year's 83.84 million tons of export was much more than the coal imports.
(Xinhua News Agency February 14, 2003)