By Chen Aizhu
       May 20 (Reuters) - China's imports of fuel oil rose 10%
in April from a year earlier to 2.93 million metric tons, data
from the General Administration of Customs showed on Monday,
which is the highest level since at least 2020 according to
Reuters' records. 
    The April imports were 48% higher than in March, as traders
brought in more shipments from Venezuela and Iran, according to
trading sources familiar with the transactions.      
    The import volumes included purchases under ordinary trade,
which are subject to import duty and consumption tax, as well as
imports into bonded storage.
    Imports into the bonded tanks reached 2.21 million tons,
also the highest since at least 2020. 
    "Higher supplies from Venezuela due to the relaxation of
sanctions contributed to the higher volumes. Refiners' margins
processing the heavier materials were also supportive," said one
Chinese trading executive. 
    Imports trended higher as some refiners ramped up purchases
before prices strengthened further, amid a global rally in the
high sulphur fuel oil market in the second quarter this year. 
    Meanwhile, fuel oil export volumes, mostly of low-sulphur
fuel oil, in April were at 1.64 million tons, up 10% from the
corresponding month last year.
    Exports rose from the same month last year as global bunker
demand firmed amid geopolitical shipping disruptions this year. 
    The exports are measured mostly by sales from bonded storage
for vessels plying international routes.
    The tables below show China's fuel oil exports and imports
in metric tons. The exports section largely captures China's low
sulphur oil bunkering sales along its coast.    
 Exports    Bonded storage  yr/yr %change
 Jan             1,674,002            33%
 Feb             1,173,447           -24%
 Mar             1,315,242           -32%
 Apr             1,636,457            20%
 Imports    Ordinary   Bonded     Total      y/y %
            trade      storage               change
 Jan          737,451  1,414,318  2,151,769     78%
 Feb          599,867    842,089  1,441,956    -18%
 Mar          727,674  1,250,129  1,977,803    -19%
 Apr          725,664  2,207,164  2,932,828     10%
(Figures are based on latest available data at the time of
publishing, and may be subject to revision by China customs at a
later date)        

 (Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Writing by Emily Chow and Jeslyn
Lerh; Editing by Sonali Paul)