Vietnam increases coal import for thermal power activities, August 15, 2020

Vietnam has increasingly imported coal and crude oil during the social distancing period for thermal power plants.

Statistics from the general Department of Vietnam Customs show that in July, Vietnam imported nearly 4.4 million tonnes of coal at the cost of VND1.4m (USD60) a tonne. In the first seven months, Vietnam imported a total of 36 million tonnes for USD2.5bn.

The total amount of imported coal increased by 46 percent compared to the same period last year. Vietnam mostly imported from Indonesia, Russia and China. A total of 140,000 tonnes of coal were imported from China for VND6.2m (USD266) a tonne, tripled the average prices from other markets. In July, Vietnam mostly imported from Indonesia. A total of 11.2 million tonnes were bought by VND1.1m a tonne.

Coal imports were VND1.5m cheaper than exports. In July alone, Vietnam exported 410,000 tonnes for USD57m. Coal imports have recently increased. In 2019, Vietnam had to import 43.7 million tonnes of coal for USD3.78bn, an increase of 91 percent compared to the previous year.
According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, coal imports increased due to rising demand from thermal power plants. Local coal mining is increasingly difficult and less effective as deeper pits are required.

The general Department of Vietnam Customs said Vietnam mainly exports high-quality coal and also only imports high-quality coal from China for iron refining. Cheaper coal from Indonesia and Russia are used at thermal power plants inside industrial zones.

Vietnam still has many coal-fired thermal power plants including BOT plants and plants providing electricity for industrial zones that have their own coal trading mechanism. That’s why many firms imported cheaper coal overseas instead of buying locally.