State Coal Minister Pratik Prakashbabu Patil told Hindi News a “gap” between domestic demand and production will outlast India’s 12th Five Year Plan beginning in 2012 during which New Delhi is seeking 9.6% economic growth and 10% poverty reduction. The latter will be especially difficult to achieve for the country soon to become the world’s most populous amid dire energy shortfalls, according to analysts. Despite its own vast reserves, India continued to import 110.42 mt of coal, mainly from Indonesia, Australia, South Africa and the U.S., between Q1 2012 and Q1 2013.

Overall coal production for 2012, meanwhile, stood at 557.5 mt, Patil said, noting that general license coal may be imported at prevailing global prices through import duty payments. In 2012, India’s Planning Commission reported that coal imports would likely reach 185 million mt by 2017—nearly 20% of worldwide sales—further expanding the demand-supply deficit. This contrasts with the 137 million mt imported by Q4 2012, prompting calls for stepped up domestic production.

Patil noted that New Delhi is working to bridge the shortfall with industry-centered technological advances, infrastructure development, monitoring of coal blocks and ongoing project reviews. In addition, Patil said the government is also generating the development of Coal India blocks by engaging developers and operators.