China imported 74.6mn t of coking coal last year, up by 15.3pc from 64.7mn t in 2018, according to Chinese customs data. But imports in December stood at an all-time low of 1.7mn t, down by 72.43pc from November, and down by 45.7pc from December 2018.
Total Chinese imports from Australia stood at 30.9mn t in 2019, higher by 9.69pc from 2018.
Australian exports to China fell by 95.7pc, to a low of 111,263t, in December from November. This is 74.3pc lower than the 432,992t of Australian coking coal imported by China in December 2018. Stricter import policies towards the end of the year meant that a significant amount of coking coal was denied customs clearance, with clearance of many cargoes delayed to January 2020. This delay has occurred for the past two years.
Imports from Mongolia also fell by 43.1pc to 1.57mn t in December, down by 37.9pc from December 2018. China imported 33.8mn t of coking coal from Mongolia in 2019, higher by 22pc from 2018. This is in line with the market's view that China should continue to step up coking coal imports from Mongolia to make up for the shortfall from Australian imports because of strict import policies on Australian coal.
China imported 17,289t of coking coal from Russia in December, down by 96.8pc from November and down by 85.9pc from December 2018.
China did not import coking coal from the US, Canada and Indonesia in December. Trade negotiations between China and the US resulted in a phase one deal in mid-January, but the deal stopped short of providing details on when Chinese tariffs on US coal will be removed or lowered.
The Argus spot price assessment for premium low-volatile hard coking coal averaged $136.73/t fob Australia in December, up by 1.36pc from $134.90/t on the same basis in November.