Coal India Limited set for marketing drive to create demand

By: |
June 11, 2020 7:00 AM

CIL has also developed a portal in which consumers can register the details of their demand for domestic coal towards import substitution and secure allocation of the fuel.

CIL so long didn’t have to think of demand and meeting the power sector’s requirement was a challenge till recently.

State-run miner Coal India (CIL), which is primarily focused on supplying coal to the power sector, is now reorienting its marketing to create demand amid concerns over fall in despatches. The company is primarily tapping domestic coal based power plants and non power consumers which import coal.

CIL so long didn’t have to think of demand and meeting the power sector’s requirement was a challenge till recently. Even when the non power sector was starved of coal and had to lift the fuel, paying high premium above notified prices through e-auctions, CIL gave priority to the power sector for supplies. However, with the power sector piling up with 50 million tonne of stocks sufficient for 29 days of consumption, the mining behemoth will now have to focus on marketing and look into the factors that create demand.

A CIL official said the company so long has worked on the supplies side improving facilities to its customers like reduction in reserve prices of coal in auctions and liasoning with the Railways on behalf of the customers but never looked into the mechanism of creating demand. Demand is based on many factors like logistics, freighter movement, fluctuation in international prices, affecting landed cost most importantly the liquidity condition of the consumer. CIL will now have to take into considerations these factors too.

To find the avenues for expanding its supplies, CIL is now focusing on non power sector consumers like sponge iron, cement, fertiliser, captive power plants, and steel, persuading them to replace their imported coal with domestic coal. “Dialogue is on with customers who opted for import substitution in FY20. Until demands picks from the non power sector supplies will be low key,” a CIL official said.

CIL has also developed a portal in which consumers can register the details of their demand for domestic coal towards import substitution and secure allocation of the fuel. CIL has flagged for government’s consideration the case for lower or discounted railway tariff for transportation of quantities of domestic coal booked by consumers which will facilitate import substitution.

Although the company feels the move would result in curtailing forex outgo arising out of coal imports and help CIL expand its supply volumes, CIL continues to be beset with tepid demand for coal with most of the customers shying away from lifting adequate quantities. Power sector, which makes up close to 80% of CIL’s total supplies, is brimming over with nearly 50 million tonne (MT) of coal sufficient for 29 days of consumption ending May 2020. Already many plants have started restricting supplies from CIL further shrinking the despatches of coal companies. For the month of May 2020, power sector at 30.15 MT, lifted only around 75% of coal, from CIL, compared to what it did same month a year ago, resulting in a 10.23 MT slide in supplies. During May 2019, power utilities lifted 40.38 MT of coal.

Meanwhile, the Center has mulled creating a coal exchange in the lines of commodity exchange with a view to open the sector to market forces with the government allowing commercial mining. The coal ministry is likely to begin auctioning of around 50 coal blocks for commercial mining on June 11. The government plans to get ready with the coal exchange with the commercial miners getting ready for production. All the coal produced in the country, including CIL’s will be traded through the exchange online and market forces will determine pricing of coal in a transparent manner.

CIL officials said this form of coal, trading would mean end of the regime of fuel supply agreement (FSA) and coal will be thrown open to the markets. In view of that, CIL, though would continue to remain a lead player, would need to transform itself to a market driven company, for which it is reorienting it marketing to work on creating demand. With the coal sector thrown open to the market, every consumer be it the power or non power sector, will have a level playing field.

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