Canada, U.S. gain as India cuts dependence on Australian coking coal

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Shipments of coking coal from the United States and Canada rose to a sixth of all Indian imports of the fuel during the year ended March 2019, as steelmakers in the coal guzzling country look to cut their dependence on Australia.

FILE PHOTO: A worker shovels coal in a supply truck at a yard on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo

Australia’s share in India’s coking coal market fell to 71%, or 36.91 million tons, during the year ended March 2019 from about 88% three years ago, India coal ministry data reviewed by Reuters showed. The United States and Canada had a 5.6% share of the market three years ago.

Regular interruptions in India’s main supplier over the last few years, including a flood in a major coal producing region in February and a cyclone which tore into Queensland in 2017, have caused worries about major supply disruptions in India.

Overall Indian coking coal imports rose 10.3% to 51.84 million tons, while imports of thermal coal - mostly used by utilities - rose 13.72% during 2018-19.

Higher Indian coal imports are a boon for international miners such as Indonesia’s Adaro Energy, Australia’s Whitehaven Coal, U.S. coal miner Peabody Energy Corp and global commodity merchants such as Glencore.

India expects its coking coal demand to more than double in 10 years as the country plans to increase its crude steel production to 300 million tons by 2030 from current annual production of 132 million tons.

Indian steelmakers import the bulk of their coking coal needs due to scarce domestic production.

The country imported 4.29 million tons of coking coal from Canada during 2018/19, accounting for 8.27% of overall India-bound shipments of 51.84 million tons.

Coking coal imports from the United States were 4.13 million tons, or 8% of all shipments to India of the fuel.

(Graphic: India's coking coal imports -

Indonesia remained the top supplier of thermal coal in 2018-19, accounting for three-fifths, or 111.6 million tons. Imports from South Africa amounted to 31.15 million tons, or less than a sixth of all thermal coal imports.

Imports of thermal coal from the United States rose by 24% to 10.84 million tons, the largest gain by a country in percentage terms. Indonesian coal imports rose 18%, while imports from South Africa fell 19% during the year.

(Graphic: India's thermal coal imports -

Rate of growth of thermal coal imports from countries such as Russia and Australia were largely in line with an overall surge in imports, while coal imports from Mozambique outpaced overall growth, up 37.4% to 4.85 million tons.

Australian thermal coal exports to India could rise once Adani Enterprises’ Carmichael mine starts exporting, which the company expects to do in two years.

Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise