Coal Exporters Just Got a Big New Competitor

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Rumors emerged last week of big changes coming in the coal market — from one of the world’s largest players in the business.

That’s China. Where officials are reportedly moving to change the country’s coal export policies — with potentially large consequences for other exporters globally.

Platts quoted “industry participants” as saying that the Chinese government is close to announcing a cut in coal export duties. With sources suggesting that export taxes could be reduced to 3%, from a current 10%, as early as January 1, 2015.

Coal companies were reportedly meeting on Friday with China’s National Development and Reform Commission, to finalize details around the new rules.

If a drop in export taxes does materialize, it could have a significant effect on the global coal market. China’s 10% export duty has been in place since August 2008, when it was introduced in preserve strategic coal resources for domestic use.

It now appears, however, that officials no longer see a need to keep all of this supply at home. Indeed, domestic coal production has been surging the last several years — while consumption growth is no longer seeing the big increases it was posting over much of the last decade.

Faced with the possibility of oversupply, it appears that officials want to once again allow Chinese producers to sell to the rest of the world, with the cut in export duties intended to spur higher levels of exports. The move also comes after the government imposed higher duties on imported coal in October, in an attempt to limit shipments coming into the country and competing with domestic production.

All of this could mean that coal exporters such as Australia, South Africa, and North America will be seeing increased competition. And it could happen within the next few months, if the January 1 date for policy changes turns out to be correct.

Some analysts have suggested the move will mostly impact the metallurgical coal market.

With Chinese exports enjoying a cost advantage when shipping to key markets like Japan and South Korea.

Watch for news on official approvals of the new export policies. And increased competition coming in these markets–along with possible falls in prices, as increased global supply potentially leads to a buyers’ market here.

Originally written for OilPrice.com, a website that focuses on news and analysis on topics of alternative energy, geopolitics, and oil and gas. OilPrice.com is written for an educated audience that includes investors, fund managers, resource bankers, traders, and energy market professionals around the world.