BEIJING - China's aluminium imports in the first two months of 2023 rose 11.3% from a year earlier, official data showed on Saturday, as buyers anticipated improving demand for the metal following the country's reopening.

Arrivals of unwrought aluminium and products including primary metal and unwrought, alloyed aluminium totalled 374,321 tonnes in January and February combined, according to the General Administration of Customs.

That compares with 336,007 tonnes in the corresponding period last year.

China dropped its strict COVID-19 restrictions late last year, buoying hopes of an economic recovery and better demand for industrial metals.

Manufacturing activity in the world's second-largest economy expanded at the fastest pace in more than a decade in February.

The first two months also saw domestic primary aluminium output climb 7.5% year-on-year to 6.74 million tonnes, the highest for the period since at least 2015, data from National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed earlier this week.

Following the higher production, imports of bauxite, a key raw material for aluminium production, totalled 23.62 million tonnes January-February, up 12.8% on year, customs said.

Despite the annual increase in aluminium imports, high global prices in the first two months made imports unattractive.

The benchmark aluminium contract on the London Metal Exchange registered a monthly average of $2,644 a tonne in January, the highest since May 2022, followed by a slide to an average of $2,373 a tonne in February.

(Reporting by Siyi Liu and Dominique Patton; Additional reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)