I’ve talked a lot about coal in India lately.
The way things are setting up, I believe the story could be one of the biggest surprises of the coming year. And data today makes me even more convinced.
Shipping numbers reported today show that India imported 12.73 million tonnes of steam coal in June. That’s a big number–one of the highest monthly totals on record.
It also brings India’s three-month total imports for April to June to over 36 million tonnes of thermal coal. To put that number into perspective, remember that India imported a total 88.8 million tonnes of thermal in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2013.
During the three months to June, India has thus brought in over 40% of the import volume it saw for the entire year previous.
That’s very significant. The global thermal coal market is extremely depressed right now. Prices have fallen as growing production from Indonesia and Australia has raised fears of a supply glut.
But no one is pricing in the ravenous import growth from India. If we annualize the numbers for the last three months, the nation is on pace to import nearly 145 million tonnes of thermal coal this fiscal year. That would be a staggering 60% increase from the previous year.
Even if imports come in below this level, there’s a good chance India will absorb all of the excess production in the Pacific. And possibly then some.
This could result in unexpected momentum for prices and profits of coal producers. Especially if it’s accompanied by high-cost operations in places like Australia shutting down (which seems to be happening).
This is going to take a lot of people off-guard. Be watchful and ready.
Here’s to the new kid in the game,