SINGAPORE, April 6 (Reuters) - India’s iron ore imports jumped to a record above 15 million tonnes in the fiscal year to end-March as tumbling global prices and limited domestic supply pushed steelmakers to buy more of the raw material overseas, industry data showed on Monday.
Formerly the world’s No. 3 supplier of iron ore, India has been importing it over the past three years due to court-imposed restrictions aimed at curbing illegal mining in the major producing states of Karnataka and Goa.
The shortage deepened last year when some mines in the states of Odisha and Jharkhand were ordered to close after the expiry of licences.
India’s iron ore imports totalled 15.5 million tonnes in the past fiscal year, according to data compiled by industry consultancy SteelMint, which tracks shipments at 18 ports across the country. In the year to March 2014, imports were just 320,000 tonnes.
More than half of imports in fiscal 2014/15 were brought in by JSW Steel, India’s third-largest steel producer, with 8.4 million tonnes. Tata Steel followed with 3.06 million.
Official Indian government data only covers April-December, with imports totalling 7.38 million tonnes, according to the trade ministry.
Despite the jump in shipments to India, global iron ore prices fell below $50 a tonne .IO62-CNI=SI last week to the lowest level since a key benchmark pricing index began in 2008.
The steelmaking commodity has lost about two-thirds of its value since the start of last year amid a global glut and slow demand from top iron ore buyer China.
The reopening of iron ore mines in states such as Odisha, Jharkhand and Goa may reduce India’s imports in the current fiscal year, said Dhruv Goel, managing partner at SteelMint.
“We expect imports will be limited to 6-7 million tonnes, subject to global iron ore prices,” Goel said.
Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Additional reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj in New Delhi; Editing by Alan Raybould