BEIJING, 13th April, 2016 (WAM) — China’s crude oil imports jumped 21.6 percent in March from a year earlier to 32.61 million tons, or 7.71 million barrels a day (bpd) despite the economic slowdown, government data showed Wednesday.

According to reports from Bloomberg, imports in the first three months reached 7.34 million bpd, up 13.4 percent from the same period of last year, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs.

Last year, the world’s second-largest oil consumer began to allow local independent refineries, known as “teapot” refiners, to import crude oil as part of its energy reforms.

Qualified local refineries are allowed to import crude oil if they cut backward capacity or install natural gas storage facilities. According to the US Energy Information Administration under the Department of Energy, these smaller, independent refineries account for more than 20 percent of China’s total refinery capacity.