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China Turns to Indonesia for Cheap Coal
Traders have been reporting Chinese buyers have been absent to infrequent partakers in the coal market. But data belies this with coal import volumes constantly exceeding the previous year’s tonnages. China Coal Report looks at the disparity.
“The Western traders are lost,” he said. “If you want to trade in the Chinese market, you need to get to somebody who is in with the Chinese traders.”
The global coal industry has been very concerned about China’s slowing economic activity but the real issue is not the volumes of imported coal but declining coal prices.
In the 11 months to November 2012, China imported 206.1Mt of coal, up 12.5% year-on-year, according to Chinese customs authorities, including 160.1Mt of thermal coal, which has risen in volume by 15.5% y-o-y.
In November, China imported 23.57Mt of coal, the highest monthly volume of coal for 2012, although December’s import volumes may yet top this. November’
Many of the Indonesian producers have been able to move large volumes into China because they deal directly with Chinese traders on a regular basis, the source said. Many of the deals are not long term contracts as might be expected but are for individual shipments or for a period of up to three months, he said.
“China is importing about 12 to 13Mt of Indonesian coal every month, about a third of Indonesia’s coal production,”
However, official Chinese customs data shows China imported 8Mt of Indonesian coal in November.
The source said his company often finalised two or three cargoes a day for China because of its close association with the Chinese traders.
“I wouldn’t even try and place any cargoes with Western traders,” the Indonesian producer said.
He added that Indonesian producers price coal being sold into China with reference to Chinese domestic prices rather than global indices, which also provides them with an advantage over Western traders.
The monsoon arrived late in Kalimantan last year. October, which is when the rains normally begin, turned out to be an extremely dry month, allowing producers to ramp up production, the producer said. November’s rainfall was also lower than the monthly average of about 200mm.
“In October, Indonesia produced 32.2Mt of coal and in November 33.6Mt, but now it is raining very heavily,” the source said.
“The monsoon season arrived late last year, but December was quite rainy. South Kalimantan received 545 millimetres, more than double the monthly average.”
Despite the downpours, which have continued into this month, he said he does not expect Indonesian production volumes will be affected.
“I think Indonesia will continue to produce between 30 and 33Mt a month for some time,” he said. “I don’t think it will fall below 30M.”
Meanwhile, Komatsu’s 70% decline in sales of mining equipment to Indonesian producers last year is an indication many companies have put mine expansion plans on hold. However, Indonesia has sufficient mining equipment on hand to maintain the country’s current coal production capacity at about 360-380Mtpa, he said.
A trading source said he is confident China will continue to seek coal from Indonesia even though demand tends to ease off in the run up to the Chinese New Year, which begins on February 10, and the shoulder electricity demand period.
Chinese demand for Indonesia’s higher CV rank coals is increasing, a Singapore trader said.
“Some firm queries have come out of China for the typical 5,500 to 5,700kcal/kg NAR coal, in addition to some Korean tenders,” he said.
Chinese buyers are turning to Indonesian coal in preference to the high ash 5,500kcal/kg Newcastle product because of tight supply and NSW producers’ unwillingness to lower prices, globalCOAL reports.
“With Australian coal offers remaining scarce, Chinese buyers are turning to Indonesian 5,500 NAR coal instead, with a bid at $72/t FOB Kalimantan in 70kt and mid-February loading,” globalCOAL said last week.
More information can be found in the China Coal Report which presents weekly updates on both the producer and consumer sides of the Chinese coal market. With data on trade, transport and policy updates, the China Coal Report provides comprehensive coverage for anyone dealing with the Chinese coal market.
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