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BEIJING/CHENNAI: India and Indonesia have emerged as key beneficiaries of a Chinese ban on Australia’s coal exports which is expected to further shift global trade in the fuel used for power generation and steelmaking this year.

Australia, the world’s biggest coal exporter, will continue to benefit from growing Indian demand for its coal, made cheaper after it was shunned by China, analysts said. Coal traders and buyers expect India’s buying spree of Australian coal to last into next year due to its price and quality.

China has targeted various Australian products with unofficial import restrictions since March 2020 as relations between the two countries soured.

The ban has also benefited coal exporters in Indonesia, Mongolia and Russia as China’s buyers switched suppliers, according to the latest Chinese customs data. Indonesia’s coal miners signed a $1.5 billion supply deal with China in November.

“Global trade flows will be self-adjusting with Australian coal flowing to Indian and European markets and South African and Colombian sources coming into China,” said Winston Han, chief analyst from China Coal Transportation and Distribution Association at a Coaltrans seminar this week.

As the largest consumer of most commodities apart from oil, China has long had a heavy influence on resources trade through its sheer size. But the ban has particularly benefited Indian buyers, while Chinese importers are complaining that they are having to pay more for lower quality coal from other countries.

Indian cement companies last year started snapping up cargoes of Australian coal that were being offered at steep discounts after being turned away from China, said Kirit C Gandhi, joint president at Indian cement firm Shree Cement .

India became the second-biggest buyer of Australian thermal coal in February, according to data from consultancy Lavi Coal Info, as it bought less coal from its traditional suppliers Indonesia and South Africa.

Australia, already India’s biggest supplier of metallurgical coal, accounted for around 20% of India’s thermal coal imports in the first two months of 2021, up from a little over 4% on average in 2020, according to data from Lavi Coal Info.

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