NEW DELHI - India's thermal coal imports rose by more than 15 percent in the first three months of 2018, with Indonesia accounting for about three-fifths of total supplies, according to vessel arrival data from Dubai-based coal trader American Fuels & Natural Resources.
India's rising coal imports are contributing to higher demand across Asia this year, which has pushed benchmark Australian coal cargo prices above $100 per tonne, a price not seen at this time of year in more than half a decade.
Imports rose to 39.6 million tonnes during the three months ended March 31, the data from American Fuels, a supplier of coal from the United States, showed.
That is up from 34.4 million tonnes of thermal coal during the first three months of 2017, according to Indian government data which matched the data from American Fuels.
Government data for the first three months of 2018 has not been released yet.
The American Fuels figures are broadly in line with data from an Indian-based trading company reviewed by Reuters that showed imports were 37 million tonnes in the quarter.
India will likely increase 2018 thermal coal imports after two straight years of declines because of domestic logistic bottlenecks, regulatory changes and surging power demand.
Vasudev Pamnani, a senior trader at American Fuels, said India's demand for coal with a higher calorific value, most of which has to be imported, was increasing since buyers want more energy from the coal they purchase to offset higher prices and the logistical problems, mainly railway delays.
South Africa was the second-largest source of foreign coal during the first quarter, supplying about one-fourth of the total imports, with the United States and Australia being the next largest sources, the data showed.
Adani Enterprises, India's largest coal trader, accounted for about one-sixth of all the imports, purchasing about 6.51 million tonnes during the period, the data showed.
The Tata Group imported 5.23 million tonnes of coal during the period with Swiss Singapore, part of the Aditya Birla Group, taking in 2.92 million and JSW Group bringing in 2.48 million.
The companies did not respond to requests for comment.
The ports of Mundra, Krishnapatnam and Kandla handled about the two-fifths of all of the imports, according to American Fuels.