* Shipments rise on the month on increasing seasonal demand
* Coal imports from Jan-June down 37.5 pct
* Many cargoes rejected at Chinese ports after quality checks (Recasts to focus on year on year numbers, adds detail)
By David Stanway
BEIJING, July 13 (Reuters) - China’s coal imports slumped 33.7 percent in June from a year earlier to 16.6 million tonnes, as rising summer power use failed to drive a recovery in sluggish demand, customs data showed on Monday.
Imports rose 16.5 percent on a month earlier as power plants began to rebuild stockpiles ahead of the summer consumption peak, but first-half imports were still down 37.5 percent at 99.9 million tonnes, according to figures from the General Administration of Customs.
With coal in plentiful supply, China has been urging local producers to scale back operations and has imposed strict quality restrictions on imported coal that have seen deliveries delayed and even turned away.
The Minerals Council of Australia said early this month that Australian cargoes were being unfairly rejected at Chinese ports due to the quality restrictions.
China’s Ministry of Commerce told Reuters in a faxed statement that coal was a commodity covered by the free trade agreement between the two countries and that Beijing had not imposed any import restrictions.
“The rejection of any Australian cargoes at Chinese ports as a result of quality problems is an issue for the inspection and quarantine authorities,” it said.
The General Administration for Quality, Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) did not respond to requests to comment, but its local bureau in the region of Guangxi said it turned away 37 out of a total of 240 coal cargoes for quality reasons in the first half of 2015.
Local authorities at the port of Taizhou on the eastern coast also said a 40,000-tonne Australian cargo was turned away on environmental grounds last week. It had been sitting at the port for more than three months.
But analysts suggest the main reason for the rapid decline in imported volumes is the weakness in overall demand.
“Essentially, the decline is caused by falling demand, and the tougher regulations have only made it more difficult to import coals of lower quality from some producers like Indonesia,” said Zhang Xiaojin, analyst with Everbright Futures.
Normally, domestic coal prices spike in the summer as power demand surges, making overseas coal a cheaper option. However, this year prices have remained stubbornly low, with spot coal in the port of Qinhuangdao SH-QHA-TRMCOAL remaining unchanged at 415 yuan ($66.85) per tonne since early June.
$1 = 6.2075 Chinese yuan Additional reporting by Beijing newsroom