NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India’s need for coal imports could jump nearly 70 percent in next fiscal year to 142 million tonnes from 2010/11 forecast purchases, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said in a speech, as domestic output growth faces regulatory hurdles.
The figure marks a big jump from an estimated 104 million tonnes shortfall for 2011/12 made just two months ago by the minister.
Imports for the current fiscal year to end-March are expected to be nearly 84 million tonnes, the minister had said in September.
Coal accounts for more than half of power generation by India, Asia’s third-largest economy, which is growing at close to 9 percent this fiscal year.
Domestic production, which continues to provide the majority of coal consumed, faces hurdles such as environmental clearances, land acquisition problems and low investment. Coal producers have been seeking assets abroad to help meet the shortfall.
“The import dependence is increasing rapidly,” Jaiswal said in the text of a speech to be read to a conference. “From energy security point of view, the government has been encouraging acquisition of coal properties abroad,” he added.
“The major constraints which are required to be addressed immediately include obtaining forestry and environmental clearances for coal projects.”
In the current fiscal year, India’s coal imports may fall due to high global prices triggered by the floods in Australia, Jaiswal had said recently. That could impact power generation and earnings of steel, power and cement firms.
India produced 526.16 million tonnes of coal in 2009/10, up 6.78 percent from 492.76 million tonnes of coal in the previous year.
Imports of coal were 73.25 million tonnes in 2009/10, up 24 percent from 59 million tonnes in the previous year.
(Reporting by Ruchira Singh; writing by Jo Winterbottom; editing by Malini Menon)