NEW DELHI, March 14 India could be the top buyer of Indonesian thermal coal next year even if the southeast Asian country introduces an export tax on its product, a slim majority of respondents in a spot poll of attendees at the Coaltrans conference in New Delhi said.
Prices could rise "moderately" as a result of any export tax on coal by Indonesia, according to 75 percent of the delegates who took part in the electronic vote on Wednesday.
About 58 percent of respondents said in 2013 India would be Indonesia's biggest buyer of thermal coal even if the export tax was imposed. No details on number of voters was available.
The delegates who voted in the poll represented end-users, producers, traders, brokers, surveyors and shipping agents.
Indonesia, a major global producer of raw materials, said last year it would look to introduce export taxes for coal and base metals from 2012, as it tries to encourage more investment in its mining sector.
Coal demand in India, Asia's third-largest economy, is set to jump to 980 million tonnes by 2017, but output in this period may only be 795 million tonnes, coal ministry figures say.
Output from state-run Coal India, which accounts for about 80 percent of the country's production, should be 464 million tonnes in 2012/13 and about 440 million tonnes in 2011/12 -- suggesting there will continue to be a substantial gap to be filled by imports.
Indonesia is currently the leading supplier to India followed by Australia.
Australia could take over the leading slot early next decade, as Indonesia focuses on filling domestic demand, research consultants Wood Mackenzie said.
(Editing by Jo Winterbottom)