* Q1 imports up 16.6 pct year-on-year
* Imports rise as utilities replenish inventories
* March imports rise 20.9 pct year-on-year (Adds details, comment)
BEIJING, April 13 (Reuters) - China’s coal imports rose in March from a year ago as utilities boosted their purchases to replenish inventories amid colder-than-usual winter weather that drew down fuel stockpiles.
Coal imports last month climbed 20.9 percent from a year ago to 26.7 million tonnes, data released by the General Administration of Customs showed on Friday.
That was up from 20.9 million tonnes in February.
For the first quarter, China imported 75.41 million tonnes of coal, up 16.6 percent from the same period a year earlier.
“Demand was strong in March driven by stockpiling activities from power plant and steel mills,” said Ma Chong, an analyst with Shanghai LS Asset Management Center.
China’s six largest coal-fired power plants have boosted their inventories as of April 12 to 14 million tonnes of inventory, equivalent to 20 days of consumption, from only 10 million tonnes at the beginning of this year, equal to 14 days of demand, data from China Sublime Information Group showed.
For trade data please click (Reporting by Meng Meng and Aizhu Chen; Editing by Josephine Mason)