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Exports of all types of coal decreased by 10.4% in 2020, the first year-on-year fall since 2016. Indonesia, Australia and Russia continued to be the largest coal exporters in 2020 even as their shipments fell. The main importers were Asian countries such as China, India, Japan and Korea. The last three reduced imports in 2020, while in China they grew by 0.6%.

Share of coal imports, 1990-2020

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Share of coal exports, 1990-2020

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Trade patterns have changed over the last three decades.

Nowadays, Indonesia and Australia supply more than half of global exports, two-thirds if Russia is included. Back in 1990 Australia and the United States were the main exporters with around one-fifth each, but the share originating from the United States has significantly decreased, to less than 6% of global trade. From 2000, exports from countries such as Mongolia and Colombia became more significant. However, the strongest growth over the past 30 years has come from Indonesia, which now accounts for almost one-third of the global coal exports market.

On the import side, China currently buys one-fifth of the coal sold on international market, but its presence back in 2000 was negligible. Meanwhile, the European Union was the largest importer in 1990 but has reduced its coal imports consistently since then, going from 35.4% of the global share to less than 10% currently. Viet Nam was the big surprise of the last decade, turning from exporter to importer in 2005 and increasing demand over the years since then.

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