March 8, 2018 / 4:31 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-China February coal imports drop to 7-month low on warmer weather, New Year holiday

* Jan-Feb imports still up 14 pct vs Jan-Feb 2017

* China aiming to cut more coal production this year (Adds details)

BEIJING, March 8 (Reuters) - China’s coal imports fell in February from January’s four-year high, customs data showed on Thursday, curbed by warmer weather and slower demand during last month’s week-long Lunar New Year holiday.

Data from the General Administration of Customs released on Thursday showed coal arrivals COA-IMP-TOT dropped to 20.9 million tonnes last month from 27.8 million tonnes in January, when freezing weather boosted demand. February’s imports were the lowest for any month level since July 2017.

Still, for the first two months of the year the world’s No.1 coal importer brought in a total of 48.71 million tonnes of the fuel, up 14 percent from a year earlier, the data showed.

Daily coal consumption at major utilities has declined to 524,700 tonnes as of March 2 from as much as 822,000 tonnes in early February, according to data from Wind consultancy, as cold winter weather eased across the country.

“The coal supply crunch has eased since mid-February, so the advantages of imported coal became less obvious,” said Xu Bo, analyst at Haitong Futures.

Northern China’s official winter heating season ends on March 15, pointing to a seasonal drop-off in demand, while Beijing has vowed to cut more steel and coal capacity as it tries to curb pollution.

“Coal consumption may fall this year due to concerns of slowing economic growth and deepened capacity reduction targets in downstream sectors such as steel and coal-fired power,” Man Shengang, chairman at Shandong Energy Zaozhuang Mining Group Co., told Reuters on Wednesday.

China aims to maintain its national economic growth target at around 6.5 percent and cut more steel, coal and coal-fired power capacity in 2018.

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Reporting by Muyu Xu and Josephine Mason Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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