Hanoi — Vietnam's coal imports surged 141% year on year to 1.31 million mt in July, customs data released Monday showed.
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Traditionally a coal exporter, Vietnam turned into an importer amid rising domestic demand, particularly from the power sector.
Australia was the largest supplier in July at 463,131 mt, compared with 112,092 mt a year earlier; followed by Russia with 410,449 mt, up 168%; and Indonesia with 172,099 mt, up 37.1% year on year.
In the first seven months, Vietnam imported 8.38 million mt of coal, compared with just 2.72 million mt a year ago, the data showed.
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Australia was the top supplier over January-July too with 2.67 million mt, up almost five times from 586,761 mt; followed by Russia with 2.59 million mt, up from 551,849 mt a year earlier; and Indonesia with 1.5 million mt, up 57.2% from 955,878 mt a year ago.
Vietnam National Coal Mineral Industries Holding Corp., or Vinacomin, had to reduce its sales target to 36.5 million mt from 39 million mt this year due to competition from cheaper imports, Chairman Le Minh Chuan said in July.
At a press conference last week, he blamed he recent rise in natural resource tax for domestic coal becoming more expensive.
He urged the government to consider cutting the duty to help local coal producers.
Since July 1, the natural resource tax on domestic coal has been raised to 10-12% from 7-9% previously.
Vietnam's coal exports too rose in July to 130,885 mt, up 24.2% year on year.
Its main buyer was Japan with 55,020 mt, down 9.3% year on year, followed by Indonesia with 35,000 mt. No coal was sent to Indonesia in July last year.
In the first seven months, its coal exports declined 59.9% year on year to 477,400 mt.
Japan was still top buyer with 153,473 mt, down 59.2% from a year earlier, followed by Indonesia with 77,386 mt, 31.4% lower.
During January-June, Vietnam produced 21.2 million mt of coal, down 0.9% from 21.4 million mt in the same period in 2015, data from the General Statistics Office showed.
It did not provide the actual production volumes for July.
Most of the country's coal production is used domestically by the power, cement and other industrial sectors.
--Staff reports, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Edited by E Shailaja Nair, email@example.com