(Corrects to world’s second largest, not largest, in second paragraph)
By Sudarshan Varadhan
NEW DELHI, March 10 (Reuters) - India’s thermal coal imports rose 12.6% to nearly 200 million tonnes in 2019, government data reviewed by Reuters showed, reflecting the second straight year of growth in shipments of the fuel despite attempts by the government to cut imports.
Coal is among the top five commodities imported by India, the world’s second largest consumer, importer and producer of the fuel.
Imports of thermal coal - mainly used for power generation -jumped 12.6% to 197.84 million tonnes in 2019. However, imports of coking coal - used mainly in the manufacturing of steel - fell marginally, following two straight years of increase, government data showed.
India imported 51.33 million tonnes of coking coal in 2019, down from 51.63 million tonnes in 2018, the data showed.
While higher coal imports may be bad news for the Indian government, they benefit international miners such as Indonesia’s Adaro Energy, U.S. coal miner Peabody Energy Corp and global commodity merchants such as Glencore.
Indonesia accounted for nearly 60% of India’s thermal coal imports in the April-December period, government data showed, while South Africa accounted for 22 percent and Russia and Australia accounting for over 5% each. Traders say coal imports grew largely due to lower production by Coal India Ltd, whose output fell for five consecutive months ending November due to the highest annual rainfall in 25 years and frequent outages including strikes by workers and locals.
Higher coal shipments to India were also due to increased imports by Indian utilities, whose imports rebounded after a three-year slide mainly due to increased purchases by an Adani Power plant in western India. (Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan, editing by Louise Heavens)