India’s coal imports slump as economy lockdown bites

India’s imports of coal collapsed to the weakest in at least five years in May, as the economic lockdown in the world’s second-biggest importer of the polluting fuel took its toll.

Imports were estimated at 9.17 million tonnes in May, according to vessel-tracking and port data compiled by Refinitiv, the lowest result since Refinitiv started collating data in January 2015.

While the numbers are still subject to revision, it’s clear that May’s imports will come nowhere close to the 14.64 million tonnes in April, or the 21.2 million tonnes in May last year.

There is little doubt that the major contributing factor to the slump in coal imports has been the lockdown of much of India’s economy, which started in March and has now been extended in certain areas until the end of June.

India’s cases of the novel coronavirus have surged past 180,000 and the associated COVID-19 disease has claimed more than 5,000 lives.

The economy has been hit, with March quarter growth dropping to 3.1%, the weakest in eight years amid expectations that the June quarter may see a reduction as large as 20%.

The slump in economic growth has curbed power demand, which has fallen an estimated 25% during the lockdown.

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