By Sadananda Mohapatra
Kolkata/ Bhubaneswar: Coking coal imports dropped for the first time in last three months despite price fall in global markets as costlier dollar and an ailing steel industry demand squeezed import orders, said experts and traders.
In April-September period, coking coal imports through Kolkata and Haldia was 2.83 million tonne, down by 16 per cent compared with the same period last year. Imports at Visakhapatnam port dropped by 15.3 per cent and at Paradip, the decline was 3.3 per cent for the same period, data from Indian Ports Association showed.
These three eastern Indian ports account for almost 60 per cent of India's coking coal import. In April-September, total imports declined by 0.4 per cent year on year, after growing 2.3 percent in April-August and 9.3 per cent in April-July period.
"The main reason for coking coal import drop is the depreciation of rupee against the dollar. The rupee has weakened by almost 6 per cent in the last month. Even though coking coal rates have gone down in dollar terms in global markets, Indian importers were unable to take the opportunity as dollar became costlier here,” said Sandeep Jain, commodity analyst with Karvy Comtrade.
Coking coal is currently priced at $280 per tonne, down from $310 a tonne in July-August. The rates have come down as supply has improved from major exporter Australia after devastating flood there affected production in January.
India imports coking coal mainly from Australia and Indonesia to feed its speedily expanding steel industry. Of late, steel mills in India are running below their normal capacity because of shortage of iron ore availability as restrictions in major producing states like Orissa and Karnataka brought down productions.
"Steel industry demand for coke has come down given the higher rates for iron ore. Some steel plants have raised steel prices while traders are importing steel, which gives better return than coking coal imports,” said Arun Bhattoria, a Kolkata-based coal trader. (sourced BS)