SHANGHAI, Feb. 23 -- China's coal imports in January fell 2 percent to 16.07 million tonnes from the prior month's all-time peak, but that was still more than five times the year-ago level, according to official customs data.
China's coal imports hit a record of 16.38 million tonnes in December, the General Administration of Customs said last month.
China's 8.7-percent economic growth last year, combined with low prices in the international market, lured Chinese buyers, who sourced coal from from as far as Colombia, South Africa and the United States.
Prices in Asia-Pacific market have been recovering since last summer, with Asia's benchmark thermal coal prices at Newcastle, Australia, hovering above $90 a tonne, up nearly 30 percent since August last year.
The average price of imported coal in January rose 20.1 percent from a year earlier to $92.3 a tonne, up 9 percent on the month, customs said on its website (www.customs.gov.cn).
The import boom might ease as the winter ends, with the global economic recovery bringing buyers from Japan, South Korea and other countries to compete with the Chinese interest in the hydrocarbon, traders and analysts said.