Demand for gold on the Chinese mainland is now expected to exceed supply by at least 550 metric tons (mt) by 2015, according to the China Gold Association, with imports expected to help close the gap. China is the largest gold producing nation. The Xinhua News Agency reported the latest association figures, which indicate China purchased 832 mt of gold in the last financial year, almost 10% more than 2011.

Gold jewelry imports, meanwhile, increased by almost 11% to 503 mt, as gold bar imports increased more than 12% to 240 mt, while gold coins climbed more than 21% to 25 mt. China’s total Q4 gold imports rose 24%, compared with global demand investment increasing just 2%, according to data from the World Gold Council.

Currently, China is the second gold consumer after India—and, since 2007, the world’s biggest gold producer with year-on-year growth of nearly 11.7%, with a 2012 output of 403 mt.

In addition to imports, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology officials have announced the nation’s gold producers will speed exploration and integration to create major market players. Hong Kong has been shipping record amounts to the mainland—including 114 gold mt in December alone. Total 2012 gold shipments there also jumped 94% from 2011 to more than 832 mt.