India’s Coal Import Drops 20% In May
Workers carry a bowl of coal at a coal wholesale market in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

India’s Coal Import Drops 20% In May

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India’s coal import dropped by 20% to 18.93 million tonnes last month, industry data showed.

The government is planning to bring the country’s “avoidable coal imports” to zero by 2023-24.

Demand for coal import is expected to remain subdued in the short term, given the high coal stock levels in pithead and power plants, according to mjunction Services Ltd.

The coal import in May last year stood at 23.57 million tonnes, it said. mjunction — a joint venture between Tata Steel Ltd. and Steel Authority of India Ltd. — is a business-to-business e-commerce company that also publishes research reports on coal and steel verticals.

However, coal import during last month through the major and non-major ports is estimated to have increased by 10.76% over April 2020, according to a provisional compilation by mjunction based on monitoring of vessels’ positions and data received from shipping companies.

“The slight uptick in May imports over the previous month might have resulted from the partial restart of operations in some sectors as well as the continued softness in coal prices in the international markets,” mjunction Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Vinaya Varma said. “However, given the high coal stock levels in pithead and power plants, we expect import demand to remain subdued in the short term.”

Import of coal in May stood at 18.93 million tonnes (provisional) compared to 17.09 million tonnes (revised) in April 2020, mjunction said.

Of the total imports last month, the import of non-coking coal was at 13.22 million tonnes against 12.28 million tonnes in April.

Coking coal imports were at 3.81 million tonnes in May, up from 3.23 million tonnes imported a month ago.

During April-May, total coal import was at 36.02 million tonnes, registering a decline of 27.83% from 49.90 million tonnes imported during the same period of the previous year.

During April-May, non-coking coal imports stood at 25.50 million tonnes, from 35.35 million tonnes imported during April-May 2019.

Coking coal imports were at 7.04 million tonnes during April-May, down from 8.77 million tonnes earlier.

Coal India Ltd., which accounts for over 80% of the domestic fuel output, has been mandated by the government to replace at least 100 million tonnes of imports with domestically-produced coal in the ongoing fiscal.

The central government had earlier asked power generating companies, including NTPC Ltd., Tata Power Co. and Reliance Power Ltd., to reduce import of the dry fuel for blending purposes and replace it with domestic coal.

The power sector is a key coal consumer.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also given directions to target thermal coal import substitution, particularly when huge coal stock inventory is available in the country this year.

Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi had earlier written to state chief ministers asking them not to import coal and take domestic supply from Coal India, which has the fuel in abundance.

The country’s coal imports increased marginally by 3.2% to 242.97 million tonnes in 2019-20.

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