GOLD IMPORTS from Hong Kong to satisfy China's gold buying demand tripled in 2011 from the year before, new data showed Tuesday morning.
Despite a sharp slowdown in December, total gold imports to the Chinese mainland reached almost 428 tonnes, according to the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department.
2010 saw China Buying Gold that weighed 119 tonnes through Hong Kong imports.
Last year's new annual record outpaced even China's domestic Gold Mining production, itself a record in 2011 – and the single biggest national total – of 361 tonnes.
"We didn't see the usual rush for physical gold ahead of the Lunar New Year this time," says Dick Poon, head of precious metals at German refiner Heraeus's Hong Kong office, speaking to Reuters.
"Maybe because people preferred to hold cash with the uncertainty over the Eurozone."
In December, gold imports from Hong Kong to China fell to a 6-month low – down more than 60% from November's new monthly record of 102.8 tonnes.
But "the few months before the Lunar New Year is typically the peak demand period for Chinese people," said Tao Jinfeng, chief investment consultant at China's largest brokerage firm, Haitong Futures Co., to Hong Kong Business magazine earlier this winter, and October's gold imports from Hong Kong were also very strong, matching over two-thirds of the entire 2010 total.
Gold imports to China from Europe's major Gold Bullion centers also failed to go "from nought to sixty like they did last year" said a senior logistics executive in Switzerland to BullionVault this January.
"But there's still a tremendous amount of material going there," he confirmed.
China's Gold Mining output also rose in 2011, growing 5.9% to 361 tonnes according to the China Gold Association, courtesy of "breakthroughs in exploring new gold mines".
China's gold miners are also exploring new projects overseas, the Association says.
Gold Bullion exports out of China are currently blocked by Beijing, meaning that all imports and domestic output are destined for either consumers, central-bank holdings, or institutional investment.
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