Iron ore exports to China from Australia’s Port Hedland, which ships about a fifth of the global market for the steel-making raw material, rose 36 percent in February compared with the same month last year.

Shipments to China were 21.34 million tons in February, compared with 15.66 million for the same period in 2013. That was down from January’s 23.31 million, although much of the decline may have been due to the timing of the Lunar New Year holiday in China.

February also saw heavy rains in the Pilbara iron belt, from where the port’s top two users, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group, ship around 80 million tons per quarter.

Analysts have been concerned that China’s appetite for imported ore could wane in the months ahead as industrial growth cools and demand for steel weakens.

Iron ore shipments to Japan picked up to 2.7 million tons in February, from 1.43 million the previous month and 2.25 million in February last year.

Shipments to South Korea were at 2.61 million, from 2.74 million in January and 1.39 million in the same month of 2013.

Overall, Port Hedland iron ore exports totaled 27.79 million tons, compared with 28.23 million in January and 19.9 million a year ago. (Reuters)