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Some power plants in China have been told to stop importing Australian coal, according to traders and analysts in what appears to be the latest threat to Australia’s export trade with China.Unconfirmed reports on Thursday suggested China was reviving last year’s unofficial ban on some Australian coal imports as it seeks to prop up domestic prices.

Industry consultancy MySteel said in a widely distributed newsletter that some power plants in southern China would stop importing thermal coal from Australia.

The plants had been issued with a notice with instructions to restrict the imports.

“The market rumour that all power plants in China should stop importing thermal coal from Australia right now, it said.

Another coal trader said it was “a well known fact” there were Australian coal restrictions in place.“We have to obey this rule,” he said without giving details.

Reports of the restrictions, which have not been confirmed by the authorities, mirror unofficial bans out in place last year.

They coincide with news of changes to customs inspection rules for iron ore and restrictions on Australian beef and barley imports to China.

Reuters reported this week that China would tighten coal import rules in the second half of 2020 to shore up its struggling domestic industry. Coal imports were at record highs in the first four months

Imports could drop as much as a quarter in the second half from the corresponding 2019 period, analysts were quoted as saying.

The Chinese and Australian governments last year denied reports that Australian coal was banned, but confirmed shipments were being held up by up to 45 days.