Chinese and Australian companies have reported a significant coal trade rebound in January and February, driven by increasing demand, and they're holding a positive tone for the remainder of the year, the Global Times learned from industry insiders.
These responses indicate a changing tone toward Australian goods, from being cautious to more welcoming amid an improvement in bilateral relations.
An Australian coal producer told the Global Times on Wednesday that it has perceived changes, with new orders coming in from China.
"So far in 2023, Yancoal has sold several thermal coal shipments into China and we are confident that further cargoes will be sold over the remainder of the year," a spokesperson of Yancoal told the Global Times.
As an Australia-based coal producer and developer, Yancoal operates open cut and underground coal mines in the states of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.
Speaking about how the trade resumption from China may help boost the overall Australian coal trade, the spokesperson said that there are positive fundamentals for the Chinese coal market.
"The ongoing energy and infrastructure requirements associated with China's growing economy will require certainty of baseload energy supply, including higher calorific value coal and low-sulfur coal," he said.
The spokesperson said that the company is hopeful that China will eventually return to being an important market for Yancoal, given that "China generated, on average, around 15 percent of our sales revenue."
While companies have gradually restored confidence and interest toward Australian goods amid improved trade relations, the coal trade is picking up quickly and in a significant amount.
Data from China's General Administration of Customs showed that China imported 207,236 tons of coal from Australia in February, a stark change from zero imports in January.
Chinese steel companies have refocused their attention on coal from Australia.
An employee of Baoshan Iron & Steel Co told the Global Times on Thursday that the company is closely watching the Australian coal trade.
While declining to elaborate, the person said the company has been diversifying its coal sources, with domestic mines providing the majority of its consumption compared with 20-30 percent for imports.
An employee of China Huaneng Group Co told the Global Times that it has imported a certain amount of coal from Australia this year, mostly thermal coal that accounted for less than 30 percent of its total consumption. Indonesia remains its major source of coal imports.
Australia was China's second-largest source of coal imports and the largest source of coking coal imports in 2020. The situation changed after domestic steelmakers and traders actively explored other sources of their supplies as bilateral relations soured under the previous Morrison government.
Affected by the Russia-Ukraine conflict and European energy crisis, international coal prices have been high since last year.
The total value of thermal coal imported in January and February this year amounted to $5.04 billion, an increase of 60.5 percent compared with last November and December, Chinese steel information provider Mysteel said, citing customs data.