Global steel production down, but China still rising

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Total steel production by Worldsteel’s 64 reporting countries dropped by over 4pc on the year in January-April, with China one of the few countries not to register losses in the period, or in April alone.

In April, there was a steeper 13pc year-on-year drop in global output, as every region except Asia registered losses of over 20pc. Asian output fell by just 7.5pc (see table).

In January-April, China registered a marginal increase in production to 319mn t from 315mn t. This is expected to increase further in May as China Iron and Steel Association (Cisa) member mills increased production in mid-May to near record levels.

India has recorded one of biggest steelmaking downturns this year, with output falling by 21pc on the year to just 30mn t in January-April, while April production slid by over 65pc to 3.1mn t.

Many steel-consuming states in India also have a high population density, making them particularly susceptible to the impact of Covid-19. Domestic HRC prices reached a year-to-date peak of 39,000 rupees/t ($517/t) ex-works on 7 February, but have since slid continuously to reach Rs37,000/t ($490/t) ex-works on 22 May, exacerbated by the high inflation of the rupee.

India-based research agency Icra has predicted a 20pc drop in domestic consumption, prompting many steelmakers to shift larger capacities on to the export market. India has managed to sell large quantities of steel billet to China in the past few weeks, with the shorter lead times allowing steelmakers to charge a premium over material from Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries.

UAE steel production more than halved in April compared with the same month last year, but Middle East production remained relatively flat in January-April. The combined effects of the coronavirus and the oil price fall have hit the UAE particularly hard, given the country’s high dependence on tourism. In response to budget constraints, the government announced a halt to all new infrastructure projects, while any projects already under way will be subject to audits in an effort to reduce costs.

In Europe, some of the most impacted countries in terms of Covid-19 — Italy and Spain — were also the most affected in terms of steel production losses, with Italian output down by almost 20pc in January-April and Spanish production down by 21pc. Pre-pandemic steel oversupply combined with the impacts of the virus have prompted EU steelmakers to demand increased safeguard measures for EU steel imports, with some even requesting a 75pc cut to existing quotas.

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