|A shop assistant displays gold jewelry in Qionghai, Hainan province, on Thursday. Meng Zhongde / for China Daily|
Chinese consumers' seemingly insatiable thirst for gold is set to provide a strong impetus for local mines.
The country's demand for the precious metal is expected to outstrip supply by at least 550 metric tons by 2015, statistics released by several gold councils showed.
The nation's gold producers will accelerate exploration and industry integration to create some major players in the market in the next few years, according to a circular from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
China has been the world's biggest producer of gold for six years since 2007, with an annul output of 403 tons in 2012, a year-on-year growth of 11.7 percent.
But a projected increase in output is unlikely to meet rising demand, industry analysts said.
"Imports of gold from other countries and regions will help fill the gap between gold demand and supply," said Li Yang, a Shanghai-based gold investment analyst.
Yang Yijun, chief analyst with Wellxin.com, a precious metals consultancy, said gold exchange traded funds, likely to be introduced in 2013, could further push up demand for gold reserves in China.
Despite slower economic growth in 2012, China saw year-on-year growth of 1 percent in gold jewelry demand in the fourth quarter, which stood at 137 tons. Demand for gold as an investment increased 2 percent in the fourth quarter, reaching 65.5 tons, according to the World Gold Council.
A quarter-to-quarter comparison shows China's demand for gold investment saw a 24 percent increase in the fourth quarter of 2012, said Marcus Grubb, the council's managing director for investment.
Investment was little changed in China from 2011, although 265.5 tons represented a very healthy level of demand. Purchases related to Spring Festival helped increase demand but investors were somewhat inhibited by the lack of a clear pricing signal during much of the year, given their preference to buy into a rising trend, according to the council's report.
Grubb said China is still among the countries with the highest demand for gold in the world despite its slower economic growth. A recovering economy may see more demand for gold in 2013.
"Looking forward, the signs of economic improvement bode well for gold demand in China, although the indications are for a steady firming of demand rather than for strong growth; this will remain the case while the gold price continues to hold within the broad sideways range of the last five to six months," the council report said.
To meet demands for physical gold, Hong Kong shipped 114 tons of gold to the mainland in December, a record high for monthly exports. Hong Kong's net gold flow to the mainland jumped 47 percent in 2012, totaling of 557 tons.
Data from the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department show Hong Kong's total gold shipments to the mainland in 2012 jumped 94 percent from 2011 to more than 832 tons, while imports were six times higher at 275 tons.
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