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Stockpiles at the country’s 34 major ports stood at 97.84 million tonnes on Tuesday January 13, up 330,000 tonnes from levels recorded last Friday when they started to rise, according to the latest data from local information provider Umetal.

At the end of last week, volumes totalled 97.51 million tonnes, up 780,000 tonnes from the previous week.

“Shipments of iron ore are increasing recently, causing stock levels at the ports to move up again and adding pressure to prices,” a trader in Hebei province said.

China imported a total of 86.9 million tonnes of the steelmaking raw material last month, up 18.4% from year-earlier levels. Volumes were also up by 28.9% from November, according to preliminary Chinese customs data released on Tuesday.

“Given the price advantage of imported ore, local mills continued to adjust their ore usage ratio by reducing their dependence on domestic materials while increasing demand for imports,” a Beijing-based trader said. The trader expects imports to remain strong in the coming month.

Spot iron ore prices have softened this week as a result of losses in the steel market.

Major billet producers in Tangshan made big cuts to their prices over the weekend in an attempt to secure sales. The semi-finished product was traded at 2,020 yuan ($330) per tonne on Tuesday, down from 2,110 yuan ($344) last Friday.

Metal Bulletin’s 62% Fe Iron Ore Index fell by $1.56 per tonne to $68.74 per tonne cfr Qingdao on Tuesday.

The Metal Bulletin Iron Ore China Port Stocks Index was at 501 yuan per wet tonne, up 2 yuan per tonne from Monday. The price converts to a seaborne market equivalent of $71.27 per tonne cfr.