Global thermal coal import demand is likely to climb up 3.8% from the 2020-level in 2021, alongside nations' gradual recovery from the COVID-19 fallout, said an analyst with Noble Resources at the Coaltrans Asia 2020 conference on November 23.
"COVID-19 pandemic has been spreading worldwide this year, which slowed global coal market demand, industrial activities of most economies and brought down electricity demand," said Rodrigo Echeverri, head of research at Noble.
He predicted international thermal coal import demand to increase to 960 million tonnes in 2021 from 925 million tonnes this year, but the volume will still be much lower than 1.04 billion tonnes in 2019.
China, the largest coal importer, may present 2021 seaborne coal demand flat from this year, and a main driver to its imports will be more of policy rather than economy alongside end users' push for import quotas and increasing arbitrage activities, according to him.
There were market talks that Chinese customs will likely release more import quotas to meet growing coal demand in winter, which could bolster seaborne coal prices again.
However, China's strict ban on Australian coal has boosted a steady growth of coal imports by southeastern Asian countries like Vietnam. Besides, the planned and constructed coal power projects in Vietnam will also boost its coal demand in the next years.
Noble expected thermal coal imports of southeastern Asian countries would increase to 136 million tonnes next year from 2020's 126 million tonnes, way higher than 112 million tonnes last year.
In India, coal-fired power generation showed a marked recovery in the second hald of this year despite still increasing coronavirus cases, which also increased coal demand. India's coal imports in October logged the first positive year-on-year growth since February this year.
Noble forecast India's economy to steadily recover next year and seaborne coal demand thus to rise, with its thermal cola import demand projected to reach 164 million tonnes in 2021, up by 13 million tonnes from 2020 but lower than 2019's 169 million tonnes.
(Writing by Tammy Yang Editing by Alex Guo)
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