BEIJING, Jan 13 (Reuters) - China's coal imports dipped slightly in December from the previous month but were still up more than 50 percent from a year ago at 26.84 million tonnes, official customs data showed on Friday.
For 2016, China's coal imports rose 25.2 percent from a year earlier to 255.5 million tonnes, reflecting China's campaign to reduce overcapacity in the domestic coal sector.
December imports were just below below November's 26.97 million tonnes, after Beijing eased curbs on production in November in a bid to boost winter supplies and ease volatile prices.
Analysts have forecast that the pace of coal imports could slow in 2017 as the restart of domestic coal mines dampens demand for imports.
"Strong December imports reflected increased demand from utilities as they increased stockpilling ahead of the coming Lunar New Year," said Wang Fei, a coal analyst with Huaan Futures.
"We are expecting China's coal imports to drop another 10-20 percent on month from December in the January and Feburary period. Power plants' coal consumption usually reaches the lowest level in that period as the Lunar New Year disrupts production."
China's efforts to clean up overcapacity unexpectedly triggered a rally in domestic coal prices as well as international coal prices. (Reporting by Meng Meng and Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Richard Pullin)