HANOI, Aug 3 (Reuters) – Vietnam will raise its coal export tax to 20 percent next month from 15 percent, as the country moves to save the fossil fuel for domestic consumption while coal production in August would fall from previous months, state-run newspapers reported. Coal will take over from hydro power as the leading fuel for new electricity generation in Vietnam, so far a net coal exporter, in the next five years, state utility Vietnam Electricity group has said. The new tax will come into force from Sept. 11 following a Finance Ministry circular, the official Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper said on Wednesday. It said the ministry raised the tax as Vinacomin, Vietnam’s top coal mining group, has exported nearly 2.0 million tonnes a month and its coal export target for 2011 would reach 16.5 million tonnes. But Vietnam also has to import more coal. In June Vietnam received 9,570 tonnes of its first thermal coal shipment from Indonesia, opening up a new supply source as the country seeks to increase imports of the fuel, a Vinacomin official said. Vietnam has also imported coal from Australia and has been seeking to buy from Russia. It will seek long-term coal import contracts as thermal coal power plants will account for the largest share of generation capacity, a masterplan for Vietnam’s electricity development by 2020 approved by the government said. Vietnam has shipped 10.32 million tonnes of coal in the first seven months of this year, down 12.8 percent from the same period last year, government statistics show. In 2010 its coal exports reached 19.23 million tonnes. The net coal exporter is expected to import 6.5 million tonnes of the power-generating fuel annually by 2015, from around half a million tonnes a year in recent years, as domestic supply is declining, a deputy trade minister was quoted in early July as saying. . Vinacomin will produce around 3.7 million tonnes of coal this month, a drop of nearly 12 percent from its average monthly output so far this year, the Dau Tu (Investment) newspaper reported on Wednesday. The group produced 29.2 million tonnes of coal in the first seven months of 2011, the Planning and Investment Ministry-run newspaper said, citing Vinacomin reports, or an average of 4.2 million tonnes per month. The report gave no reasons for the lower output but it said Vinacomin has also projected coal sale this month would rise to 4.0 million tonnes, up from an average 3.7 million tonnes sold each month since the start of 2011. Vinacomin had projected an annual coal output of 44 million tonnes this year, unchanged from 2010. Vietnam plans to build a number of power plants, including the coal-fired thermal plants, in coming years as it grapples with rising power demand and has to continue to buy electricity from southern China as part of measures to avoid outages.
(Reporting by Ho Binh Minh; Editing by Ramthan Hussain)