Growth in iron ore imports slowed during the first three quarters of the year to 24.2%. This is the first time growth has dipped below 30% since 2003, state media reported. China imported 247 million tons of iron ore from January to September, said Lu Jianhua of the Ministry of Commerce's Foreign Trade Department. Lu predicted total imports for the year would hit 320 million tons. Imports for 2006 are expected to be 12% lower than in 2005. China has been demanding a larger say in global benchmark prices for iron ore following large price hikes of 71.5% in 2005 and 19% this year. "A new oversupply situation is brewing. Iron ore prices are going to slip back up," Lu said.