* Net imports down to 29.80 tonnes, the lowest since Aug. 2014
* Total gold imports drop to 33.94 tonnes in September
* Spot gold fell 3.2 pct in September (Adds details and comments)
Oct 26 (Reuters) - China’s net gold imports via main conduit Hong Kong slipped about 8.5 percent month-on-month in September to the lowest level in over three years amid a slowdown in overall demand, data showed on Thursday.
Net imports via Hong Kong by the world’s top consumer of the metal fell to 29.80 tonnes - lowest since August 2014 - from 32.57 tonnes in August, according to data emailed to Reuters by the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department.
Total gold imports via Hong Kong also dropped to 33.94 tonnes in September from 35.85 tonnes in August.
“A slowdown in overall demand and the possibility that it has been taking a longer time for banks in China to be issued their import quotas could have contributed to the drop in September,” said Dick Poon, General Manager at Heraeus Metals Hong Kong Limited.
A preference for riskier investments such as stock markets could have also been an additional drag on demand, Poon said.
Banks with importing licences still have to apply to regulators for annual import quotas in China.
Last year, China’s net gold imports in September had risen 4.5 percent to 52.762 tonnes, from 50.484 tonnes in the previous month, data from the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department showed.
The benchmark spot gold price recorded a 3.2 percent drop in September - its biggest monthly fall since November last year - pressured by prospects of a December interest rate hike by the United States central bank.
China does not provide trade data on gold and the Hong Kong figures serve as a proxy for flows to the mainland.
The Hong Kong data might not provide a full picture of China’s purchases as gold is also imported via Shanghai and Beijing. (Reporting by Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Tom Hogue)