March 10, 2010 / 6:40 PM / 9 years ago

India, China take 50 pct of S.Africa Feb coal

A coal merchant shovels coal at a coal yard in Melmerby, northern England November 5, 2008. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

MUMBAI (Reuters) - India and China together took 2.4 million tonnes of South African coal in February - some 50 percent of South Africa’s 4.9 million tonnes of coal exports for the month and a record proportion, exporters said.

India imported 1.4 million tonnes from South Africa in February, up from around 720,000 tonnes in January and China’s imports soared similarly to just over 1 million tonnes from around 500,000 tonnes in January.

Demand for South African coal from India and China slipped in January while end-users adjusted to the rise in prices which took place in late December but had now picked up considerably, producers and traders said.

South African sellers will increasingly focus sales efforts on the Asian market during the next several years because demand is much stronger than in Europe, producers, brokers and traders said.

“Given South Africa’s geographic position and ability to supply the Atlantic and Pacific markets, producers shipping from Richards Bay can choose - they can either turn left or right,” said Paul Graham-Clarke of London Commodity Brokers.

Indian end-users attending an industry event this week in Mumbai said they would buy still more from South Africa if prices dropped below $80.00 a tonne FOB Richards Bay from current spot levels of around $84.00-$85.00.

“The South African coal quality is reliable and we prefer it but it is still too expensive for some end-users,” one Indian trader said on Wednesday.

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