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BEIJING: China’s net gold imports via Hong Kong in March surged to their highest since December 2019, Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department data showed on Tuesday, after new import quotas were issued by the central bank as demand improved.

Net gold imports via Hong Kong to China, the world’s top consumer of the metal, stood at 16.545 tonnes in March, compared with 4.192 tonnes in February and 13.523 tonnes a year earlier.

Total gold imports via Hong Kong rose to 21.766 tonnes from 5.386 tonnes in February.

“The People’s Bank (of China) has been releasing import quotas to the banks so these numbers are not that surprising,” StoneX analyst Rhona O’Connell said.

“Chinese gold demand picked up smartly during the New Year festivities and has remained strong since.”

China has given domestic and international banks permission to import large amounts of gold, Reuters reported this month.

The pandemic eroded bullion consumption close to the Lunar new year last year, when gold demand usually rises as it is considered a popular gift, forcing local dealers to sell gold at a discount to global spot prices.

However, pent-up demand and an improved coronavirus situation has allowed dealers to charge premiums of up to $10 an ounce in March.