India's coal imports hit record high in June

Workers unload coal from a supply truck at a yard on the outskirts of Ahmedabad
Workers unload coal from a supply truck at a yard on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India October 12, 2021. REUTERS/Amit Dave

NEW DELHI, July 11 (Reuters) - India's coal imports hit a record high in June despite high global prices, data from three trade sources and Refinitiv ship tracking showed, as economic activity picked up and amid a domestic shortage of the fuel.

India imported over 25 million tonnes of thermal coal and coking coal in June, rising by over a third compared with the same period last year, data from consultancies Coalmint and Kpler, and trader I-Energy Natural Resources showed.

Imports of thermal coal - used mainly in electricity generation - jumped to 19.6 million tonnes, while shipments of coking coal - used in steelmaking - rose to about 5.4 million tonnes, Coalmint and I-energy data showed.

Coal accounts for nearly three-fourths of India's power output, and utilities account for over 75% of India's coal consumption.

The energy-hungry nation's annual power demand is growing at the fastest rate in at least 38 years and high global coal prices, amid the Russia-Ukraine crisis, are straining the finances of debt-laden government-run utilities.

Thermal coal imports jumped 40%, while imports of coking coal surged 23%, data from India-based trader I-Energy showed.

Coal shipments from top supplier Indonesia more than tripled to a record 14.5 million tonnes, while imports of coal from Russia nearly doubled to 1.2 million tonnes, Kpler data showed. The imports included thermal, coking, PCI coal and anthracite.

Shipments from other top suppliers Australia and South Africa were lower compared with the same period last year but higher compared with imports in May, the Kpler data showed. Imports from the United States fell to the lowest in four months.

Indian coal imports are expected to increase in the coming months. State-run Coal India (COAL.NS) has placed orders to ship in at least 12 million tonnes over the next twelve months to address shortfalls at utilities. Indonesia expects higher demand from India.

However, overall coal shipments this year are yet to exceed pre-COVID levels, I-Energy data showed. Total imports in the Jan-June period were 119.5 million tonnes, 0.6% lower than 2019, the data showed.

Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan Editing by Bernadette Baum

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Sudarshan currently reports on the evolving energy landscape in Asia, as the region tries to strike a balance between ensuring reliable electricity supply and fighting climate change. In his previous avatar, he reported on sanctions-era global trade, human rights violations, labor movements, environmental offences and natural disasters in India for six years. During his nine years as a Reuters correspondent, he has attempted to lend a global perspective to small-town issues. Contact: +91 9810393152