BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s coal output in the first two months of 2020 fell 6.3% from the same period a year earlier as the coronavirus outbreak stopped miners from getting back to work after the Lunar New Year holiday was extended in a bid to contain the epidemic.
China churned out 489.03 million tonnes of coal over January and February, down from 513.67 million tonnes in the same period last year, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed on Monday.
Production of coke, widely used in steelmaking, fell 5.5% on the year in January-February to 70.64 million tonnes, statistic bureau data showed.
The statistics bureau didn’t disclose numbers for January and February separately.
Authorities prolonged the week-long Lunar New Year celebration, which began on Jan. 24 this year, for an extra two weeks and some regions blocked roads in an effort to rein in the spread of the virus that has now killed more than 3,200 people and infected more than 80,000 in mainland China.
To ensure sufficient coal supplies for power utilities, the central government had urged miners to resume production and rail companies to ensure enough capacity for shipping coal.
The National Energy Administration said on March 5 that production had reached 83.4% of total coal mining capacity as of March 3.
However, demand at downstream users, such as cement producers and steel mills, remains tepid as construction projects have largely stalled and supply chains for many industries are still clogged.
Power generation in China in the first two months of 2020 fell 8.2% year-on-year to 1.03 trillion kilowatt hours (kWh), the statistic bureau data showed.
Experts had estimated that China’s industrial power demand in 2020 may declined by as much as 73 billion kWh, or about 1.5% of industrial consumption in the country.
Port prices for Chinese thermal coal with energy content of 5,500 kilocalories per kg fell to 560 yuan ($80.03) a ton on Friday from 576 yuan in mid-February when miners started to return for work.
China imported 68.06 million tonnes of coal in January and February combined, up 33.1% from a year ago, as some coal shipments that were unable to be cleared by Chinese customs in December arrived in early January.
Reporting by Muyu Xu and Tom Daly; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Christian Schmollinger
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