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UPDATE 1-Australia sees higher Asian thermal coal imports

 * Asia '09 imports to rise 3.5%, vs pvs f'cast of 3.3% fall
 * Asia 2010 thermal coal imports expected to rise 6.3 pct
 * China to become net importer of thermal coal in 2009
 (Adds comments on South Korea, table)
 PERTH, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Strong demand for thermal coal
in China and India will help Asia avoid the first fall in
imports for a decade this year, and push import growth even
higher in 2010, an Australian government forecast showed on
Tuesday.
 In an updated quarterly forecast, the Australian Bureau for
Agriculture and Resource Economics (ABARE) said demand for
imported coal in Asia would rise by 13.6 milion tonnes, or 3.5
percent, to 401.6 million tonnes in 2009.
 This compares with its previous forecast in June for a 3.3
percent fall, which would have been the first decline in at
least 10 years. [ID:nSYD142464]
 ABARE, the research body for the world's number two thermal
coal exporter, also said Asia's steam coal imports in 2010
would increase by 25.4 million tonnes, or 6.3 percent, to 427
million tonnes, up from its previous estimate of 5.3 percent
growth.
 Thanks to improved regional demand and new port capacity,
ABARE has significantly upgraded Australia's thermal coal
exports, estimating it to increase 2.6 percent from a year ago
to 140 million tonnes in 2009/10. It had expected Australian
exports to fall 6 percent to 122.5 million tonnes in 2009/10 in
its June report.
 "Over the course of 2009, thermal coal demand in the
Atlantic market has been weak, while demand in the Asian market
has remained relatively strong, underpinned by increasing
imports into China," ABARE said in the report.
 Imports from China, the world's largest coal producer and
consumer, are expected to jump about 70 percent from a year ago
to reach 60 million tonnes in 2009 -- making it a net importer
this year by 35 million tonnes, ABARE said.
 Previously ABARE had said that China, now the world's No. 6
steam coal exporter, would only become a net importer in 2010.
 Indian imports are seen rising 24 percent from a year ago
to 42 million tonnes in 2009 and reaching 50 million tonnes in
2010, underpinned by the government's plan to double coal-fired
electricity generation capacity by 2017.
 ABARE also revised up its thermal coal import forecasts by
Japan, the world's largest steam coal buyer, estimating a 10
percent fall in 2009 to 115 million tonnes, compared with its
June forecast of a 14 percent decline.
 Japan's thermal coal imports are expected to see little
growth in 2010 due to a subdued economic environment and
possible higher use of nuclear power, the agency said.
 In South Korea, ABARE said growth in the country's steam
coal imports is seen slowing in 2010, after a forecast 7
percent increase to 81 million tonnes this year on the back of
new coal-fired power plants coming onstream.
 "The program to expand coal-fired generation capacity was
largely completed in the first half of 2009 and limited new
capacity is scheduled to be completed in the near future," it
said.
 ABARE'S THERMAL COAL OUTLOOK
               2008    2009*    2010*
---------------------------------------------------
  Imports (million tonnes)
  World                      704.0   689.9     729.6    
  Asia                       388.0   401.6     427.0
 China                     35.4    60.0      65.0
 Taiwan                    60.3    55.0      60.0
 India                     34.0    42.0      50.0
 Japan                    128.2   115.0     115.0
 S.Korea                   75.5    81.0      83.0
 Malaysia                  16.6    16.0      20.0
 other Asia                37.9    32.6      34.0
 Europe                   222.5   205.6     215.4
 Other                     93.5    82.7      87.2
 Exports (million tonnes)
 Indonesia                193.0   205.0    210.0
 Australia                126.4   137.9    146.0
 Russia                    85.8    88.0     90.0
 Colombia                  73.6    70.0     74.0
 South Africa              61.3    63.0     65.0
 China                     42.7    25.0     27.0
 United States             35.1    20.0     22.0
 Others                    86.1    81.0     95.6
 * ABARE's forecast
 (Reporting by Fayen Wong; Editing by Michael Urquhart)



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