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* Shipments fall to 73.38 mln T in December
* 2013 imports hit record at 820 mln T, up 10 pct from yr before
* China 2013 steel output surges 8 pct on year -CISA
* Iron ore imports seen rising further in 2014
By Ruby Lian and Fayen Wong
SHANGHAI, Jan 10 (Reuters) - China’s iron ore imports dropped 5.7 percent in December, off the previous month’s record-high, as slowing steel demand towards year-end curbed purchases of the steelmaking raw material in the world’s top consumer.
But surging steel output through most of the year in the world’s largest steel producer drove purchases of iron ore to a record-high in 2013.
Arrivals fell to 73.38 million tonnes in December, easing from the peak of 77.84 million tonnes in November, but up 3.4 percent from a year ago, customs data showed on Friday.
Imports held above the 70 million mark in four out of the six months to December.
China imported a total 820 million tonnes of iron ore in 2013, surging 10 percent from 2012 when arrivals rose 8.43 percent to 743.55 million tonnes.
Chinese steel output climbed 8 percent to all-time high of 774.6 million tonnes in 2013, according to data from the China Iron & Steel Association.
Some analysts expected China’s iron ore imports to rise further this year as increased overseas supply replaces higher-cost domestic iron ore mines, boosting imports.
“Iron ore imports may surge by another 100 million tonnes this year, as increased lower-cost supplies from overseas will replace expensive domestic ore and China’s steel output will keep growing,” said Du Hui, an analyst with Qilu Securities in Shanghai.
The Metallurgical Industry Planning and Research Institute, an industry group that provides consultancy for government policies, said last month that imports were expected to climb to 850 million tonnes this year. (Editing by Himani Sarkar and Joseph Radford)