(Adds analyst comment, background, coal and steel data)
* Jan-Feb iron ore imports rise 6.4 pct to 155.8 mln T
* Top miners lift shipments to boost China market share
* Jan-Feb coal imports fall 10.2 pct to 28.77 mln T
* Jan-Feb steel exports fall 1.3 pct to 17.85 mln T
By Ruby Lian and Manolo Serapio Jr
SHANGHAI/MANILA, March 8 (Reuters) - China’s iron ore imports rose 8.3 percent to 73.61 million tonnes in February from a year ago, customs data showed on Tuesday, as top miners boosted shipments to gain more market share in the world’s top consumer.
Imports jumped 6.4 percent to 155.8 million tonnes over the first two months from a year ago, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.
Global miners Vale, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto have ramped up production, edging out higher-cost miners in China and elsewhere.
“I think the (iron ore) export market is continuing to gain market share in China which means even with a slight fall in steel prices we would expect import demand to remain robust,” said Daniel Hynes, a commodity strategist at ANZ.
However, Hynes said some a recent rally in prices for the steel making raw material meant some Chinese iron ore mines could resume production, potentially curbing imports later this year.
Iron ore has surged 46 percent so far this year to $62.60 a tonne .IO62-CNI=SI on Monday, its loftiest since last June, becoming the best performing commodity so far in 2016.
The rally in the raw material has been buoyed by bullish sentiment and expectations that Chinese steel demand will pick up amid Beijing’s measures to boost the world’s No. 2 economy.
China’s steel exports rose 4 percent to 8.11 million tonnes in February from a year ago, but tumbled 16.7 percent from January. Exports in January-February dropped 1.3 percent to 17.85 million tonnes.
A rise in anti-dumping measures against Chinese producers has weighed on efforts by Chinese steel producers to further increase sales overseas that reached a record 112 million tonnes in 2015.
China’s iron ore imports are expected to drop in the long term as Beijing aims to cut crude steel capacity by 100 million to 150 million tonnes within the next five years, as well as ban new steel projects and eliminate so-called “zombie” mills
China’s coal imports including lignite dropped 11.3 percent to 13.54 million tonnes in February from a year ago, taking January-February shipments down 10 percent to 28.77 million tonnes from the same period last year, customs data showed.
Import demand by China has slipped amid weakening demand that has deepened a glut at home, eroding the traditional cost advantage of foreign suppliers.
China also aims to shift away from fossil fuels to curb pollution and shut as much as 500 million tonnes of overcapacity within the next three to five years.
Reporting by Ruby Lian in SHANGHAI and Manolo Serapio in MANILA; Editing by Richard Pullin