India’s coking coal buying from Russia has seen a near three-fold-jump over the last seven years, to over 6 million tonnes (mt) for the April – February period of FY24. Average coking coal buying from Russia has been in the 1.8 mt range over the last few years.

Russia, which emerged as the third largest supplier from second half of FY24, is increasing market share at the cost of Australia, and other smaller countries like Canada and Mozambique.

The USA is second largest (buying) source for Indian mills with 7.54 mt of supplies, up 100 per cent over the last seven year average shipments of 3.7 mt.

Coking coal is a key feedstock material for steel-making, and India - the second largest steel maker - is amongst the highest importers of the material globally.

According to data compiled by various Ministries and trade sources, Russian coking coal shipments grew by 214 per cent YoY from 1.92 mt for 11MFY24. In earlier years, coking coal shipments coming in were at 1.32 mt in 11M FY22, 2.02 mt in FY21, 2.61 mt in FY20, 1.27 mt in FY19 and 1.82 mt in FY18, as per data compiled by market research firm, BigMint.

With Europe not buying, Russian coal comes into India at a near 20-30 per cent discount over Australian hard coking coal price, which current is around $270 - 280 per tonne range.

“Trends indicate that Russia will continue to remain the third largest supplier of coking coal with shipments being double than that of Canada (3 mt for 11MFY24). For one, government-backed steel majors like SAIL are buying more, and then some of the larger private players are settling for Russian coking coal,” a Ministry official aware of the numbers told businessline.

Looking beyond Australian

Alternatively, Indian mills are also looking beyond Australia for securing coal.

“Price volatility of Australian coal is higher and as prices have gone up over time, Indian mills increased blending with coal from other sources. So share of Australia in overall coking coal supplies are going down too,” Steel Ministry sources said.

For instance, Australian coal shipments are now at 58 per cent of total shipments or at 31 mt of 53 mt; down from 67 per cent a year-back, 34 mt of 51 mt in 11MFY23.

Over the seven year period, shipments (from Australia) are down from a high of 78 per cent in 11MFY18, or at 38 mt of 49 mt; and 77 per cent or 37 mt out of 48 mt in FY19.

Overall coking coal imports stood at 53 mt for 11MFY24, up 4 per cent over the same period last fiscal.