Australian coal exports survive, adapt, overcome

Australian coal exports have continued to steadily rise in value since overcoming China’s ban on the commodity last year, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has revealed.

Coal exports in April 2021 increased by $287 million, 8 per cent higher when compared with the previous month.

This was partially driven by coal exports to India, which increased by 167 per cent ($116 million) in April.

Metalliferous ore exports reached a record high for the second consecutive month at $16.5 billion.

This marked an increase of $96 million from March, driven by precious metal ores and concentrates.

Total Australian exports in April reached a record high of $36 billion, which was largely driven by increases in resources shipments.

“Exports remained steady, increasing $12.6 million in April, but imports fell $1.9 billion, adding to the already strong surplus recorded in March 2021,” ABS head of international statistics Andrew Tomadini said.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang this month suggested the country needs to manipulate its commodities to ensure China’s economic stability.

According to UBS, this could involve accelerating liquidity tightening, loosening production curtailments or introducing price ceilings

“If China banned steel exports it would increase supply to the domestic market, pushing prices down and reducing inflationary pressures; this would impact steel spreads, result in a reduction in China’s steel production, and in turn reduce iron ore demand and prices,” the report stated.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission also suspended economic communications with Australia in May, signalling a move away from Australian commodities.

The ABS stated that miners were finding new markets, particularly in India.

“Australian coal exports to India have been steadily rising since mid-2020, following a substantial reduction in Chinese demand for Australian coal,” the ABS stated.

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