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* Imports drop for second consecutive month
* Imports decline 33 pct on year
* Slower demand, holiday and quality inspections slow shipments
SHANGHAI, March 9 (Reuters) - China’s coal imports fell 9.1 percent to 15.26 million tonnes in February from the previous month, customs data showed on Sunday, with shipments hit by slower demand and quality inspections at Chinese ports.
Total coal imports into China, the world’s biggest consumer, slumped 33 percent from a year ago, data from the General Administration of Customs showed. The preliminary import figure includes lower-grade lignite.
The mandatory new quality inspections, designed to reduce the inflow of low-grade coal as well as support struggling domestic miners, went into effect on Jan. 1. With demand already weak, traders cut their cargo numbers until the details of the new policy became clear.
Chinese ports have been ordered to inspect all cargoes before they are passed on to buyers, a process that normally takes around 7-15 days, traders said.
“Tepid demand and the week-long Lunar New Year holiday have limited the rise in imports,” said Wang Xufeng, an analyst at Shanxi Fenwei Energy Consulting Company.
Domestic prices at Qinhuangdao port SH-QHA-TRMCOAL have dropped 5.7 percent so far this year after losing 16 percent last year. (Reporting by Ruby Lian and David Stanway; Editing by Joseph Radford)