China May Raise Coal Contract Prices in 2022 After Squeeze


China plans to raise the benchmark price for long-term coal contracts in 2022 after a supply scare earlier this year, adding to inflationary pressures faced by manufacturers.

The National Development and Reform Commission drafted a plan to set the benchmark rate for thermal coal at 700 yuan ($110) a ton for long-term contracts, allowing prices to rise or fall within a 150 yuan band around it in monthly adjustments, according to people familiar with the plan. The agency is seeking opinions on the plan, the people said. The NDRC didn’t respond to a faxed request for comment.

China’s benchmark coal futures surged on the plan, as it would be the first increase since the contracts were introduced in 2017, Caixin reported. While the proposed rate is well below price records set earlier this fall, it’s above historic norms in a market that long had an informal 600 yuan ceiling.

The NDRC also stipulated that large mines would have to sell their output on long-term deals, and all power plants must have those contracts in place for 100% of their domestic supply, according to Caixin. China’s biggest coal and power companies have all gathered in Rizhao, Shandong, this weekend for the National Coal Trade Fair, where such contracts are typically negotiated and signed.

China coal and power companies also surged. China Shenhua Energy Co., the nation’s largest miner, gained as much as 8.9% in Hong Kong, while Huaneng Power International Inc. gained as much as 9.1%.Thermal coal futures on the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange jumped as much as 6.6% Friday after the plan was reported. Prices have fallen by more than half from a record in October, when fears of shortages prompted widespread power curtailments. The crisis has eased in recent weeks after miners responded to government orders and lifted output to unprecedented levels. 

Higher coal prices will likely mean steeper electricity costs for industrial customers after the government in October gave utilities the ability to raise or lower their rates within a 20% band around benchmark prices.