May 18, 2020 / 8:21 AM / 16 days ago

UPDATE 1-Glencore, Tohoku Electric set coal contract price at $68.75/T -source

* Price down 27% from year earlier

* Lowest since 2016

* COVID-19 cuts industrial activity, thermal coal demand (Recasts with confirmation from source, adds bullets)

TOKYO, May 18 (Reuters) - Global miner Glencore Plc and Japan's Tohoku Electric Power agreed on a price of $68.75 per tonne for thermal coal from Australia for the year through March 2021, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said on Monday.

The price, which serves as an industry benchmark for supplies of seaborne thermal coal in Asia, was 27% lower than the $94.75 a tonne agreed last year and the lowest since their April-March annual deal in 2016.

Tohoku declined to comment on the deal and Glencore could not be reached for comment.

The sharp decline from a year earlier came as the coronavirus pandemic choked off global industry activity, slashing demand for thermal coal.

The weekly index for cargoes of higher-rank thermal coal from Australia's Newcastle Port, mainly destined for Japan, South Korea and China, fell to $52.79 a tonne in the week to April 26, the lowest since June 2016, and down 24% from this year's peak of $69.59 in mid-January.

Japan is one of the world's biggest importers of thermal coal, taking about 111 million tonnes last year. Australia supplied nearly 70% of those imports, customs data from Japan's Ministry of Finance showed.

The Nikkei business daily reported on Saturday that the two companies had settled their annual coal talks at $68.75 a tonne.

Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick and Yuka Obayashi; editing by Tom Hogue and Jason Neely

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