China's crude oil imports in October rose 16.5 percent from a year earlier but stood at the lowest daily rate since December 2006, hit by high global prices, a cut-back in domestic refining and a long national holiday.
The world's number two oil consumer imported 12.61 million tonnes (2.97 million barrels per day) of crude last month, preliminary government data showed on Monday.
Crude oil imports in the first 10 months rose 13.8 percent from the year-ago period to 136.68 million tonnes, the General Administration of Customs said on its Web site (www.customs.gov.cn).
Global oil prices last month breached US$90 a barrel for the first time, and low state-set retail prices in China meant refiners had little desire to buy in pricy crude.
The country's top oil refineries trimmed operational rates in October for a fourth month in a row, reaching the lowest level since May, a Reuters survey showed.
Refining cutbacks, and a fall in net imports of refined products - down 42 percent in October from a year earlier - sparked China's worst fuel crisis in four years, with fuel shortages and rationing.
China responded by raising prices from November 1, but the first hike in 17 months was not enough to bring the country's pricing in line with international markets.
State refiners are rationing diesel again at petrol stations on the booming east coast little more than a week after the hike, industry officials and drivers said on Sunday.
A week-long national holiday in early October may also have resulted in a slow start to the importing month.
China imported 2.19 million tonnes of oil products excluding liquefied natural gas last month, while imports of products in the January-to-October period fell 8.9 percent from a year earlier to 29.02 million tonnes, customs said.