By Jo Clarke
January 7, 2021 - Australian metallurgical coal exports in November fell by 11pc compared with a year earlier, as Beijing's import restrictions pushed shipments to China to lows not seen in nearly a decade, which was partially offset by firmer buying from India, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Combined hard, pulverised coal injection (PCI) grade and semi-soft coking coal shipments fell to 13.37mn t in November from 13.65mn t in October and from 15.14mn t in November 2019. This was the least shipped from Australia since a storm-affected 11.7mn t in February 2019 and compares with a high of 19.16mn t in June 2019, according to the latest trade data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
China took just 510,000t of hard coking coal, and no semi-soft and PCI grade coal in November, taking combined shipments to China to the lowest level since May 2011 when high-grade coking coal prices spiked above $300/t fob Australia. The informal Chinese ban on imports of Australian coal is likely to be reflected in extremely low exports of coking coal to China in December, with Queensland's largest port of Gladstone reporting no sales of coal to China in each of the past two months. China bought 8.74pc more hard coking coal during January-November 2020 than it did a year earlier, after it built large stocks in the middle of the year.
Initial shipping data suggests that December coking coal shipments are likely to rebound from November as demand from outside China continues to rise as other buyers capitalise on lower prices and increased availability of Australian coking coal. India was a particularly strong buyer of Australian semi-soft and PCI coal in November, as well as the largest buyer of hard coking coal.
India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan all bought less hard coking coal during January-November than in the year earlier period, after blast furnaces were turned down during Covid-19 lockdowns. Japan and South Korea have also bought less semi-soft and PCI coking coal in the year to date.
The average export price for Australian hard coking coal was $123.12/t in November, down from $128.23/t in October and from $141.88/t in November 2019, according to the ABS. The November price is based on the Australian/US dollar exchange rate of $0.7265 used by the ABS for the month.
The Argus premium low-volatile hard coking coal price averaged $103.29/t fob Australia in November, down from $122.46/t in October and from $134.90/t in November 2019.
The average export price for semi-soft coking coal and PCI in November was $86.01, down from $92.48/t in October and from $119/t in November 2019, according to the ABS. The Argus semi-soft mid-volatile price averaged $71.20/t fob Australia in November and October, down from $92.29/t in November 2019.