India’s coking coal imports saw an 11 per cent decline to 4.41 million tonnes (mt) in October, primarily onaccount of a 33 per cent drop in shipments from Australia, over the same period last year. Australian shipments declined following rise in price of coking coal, a key steel-making feedstock material.

However, on a month-on-month basis, shipments coming in rose by 7 per cent, as per SteelMint data.

The prime hard coking coal prices peaked to one of the highest in October to $365 per tonne as against $ 311-odd per tonne in September.

Soaring industrial needs and the urgency to secure coking coal supplies, especially with depleting stocks at ports, are seen as the key causes for rising imports.

Low domestic output

International global trade intelligence platform, Kpler’s Lead Major Dry Bulks Analyst, Alexis Ellender, pegged India’s metallurgical coal imports were slightly below the September level in October at 5.27 mt, down on the 5.54 mt achieved in the same month last year.

“With India not producing significant quantities of metallurgical coal (coking coal) domestically, strong growth in crude steel output has a direct impact on import trends. Crude steel output jumped by 18.2 per cent y-o-y in September to 11.63 mt, bringing annual growth in the year-to-date to 11.59 per cent. This was close to the 9.40 per cent increase in metallurgical coal imports over the first ten months of the year,” he told businessline.

However, Ellender did add that further strong crude steel output is expected in the coming months as industrial activity ramps up post monsoon.

“We anticipate robust metallurgical coal shipments to persist through the remainder of the year and into next,”he said.

Coal India, the world’s largest coal miner, reported an 8 per cent rise in coking coal production, m-o-m to 4.53 mt.

“Due to soaring Australian coking coal prices, end-users are looking at imports from Russia and some other countries. Shipments from Canada and the USA are witnessing some increase too on a m-o-m basis,” a Steel Ministry official said.

Russian coking coal shipments have been around 0.50 mt in both September and October,

Major producers

While Australia, saw a 33 per cent drop on account of a spurt in prices over the last few months, the country remained the highest seller to India’s steel mills at 2.43 mt for October. The USA was the second largest seller at 0.68 mt for the month, with shipments rising 107 per cent y-o-y .

Russia incidentally moved up the ladder to be the third highest supplier of coking coal at 0.49 mt, up 96 per cent over last October’s 0.25 mt. Russia displaced Indonesia and Mozambique as key met coal suppliers as per trade data.

For the April – October period, India’s total coking coal imports stood at 33.40 mt, down 2 per cent y-oy . Imports in the year-ago-period was 34.14 mt. Australia remained the largest supplier with 20.17 mt, down 12 per cent y-o-y ; whereas shipments from the USA rose 9 per cent y-oy to 4.97 mt. Russia, the third largest supplier saw a 210 per cent rise y-o-y to 3.46 mt for the seven-month period (vs 1.12 mt in 7MFY23).

Trade sources said, PCI coal imports in October was 0.91 mt in October compared to 1.28 mt in October 2022. Price of Australian PCI was around $ 218 per tonne for October as against $ 188-odd per tonne in September.