India’s standing as a global steel powerhouse is reinforced by its position as the world’s second-largest producer of crude steel. As per the annual data in FY23, it achieved a remarkable output of 125.32 million tonnes of crude steel. The robust performance extends beyond crude steel, with finished steel production reaching an impressive 121.29 MT during the same period.
In January, India’s steel exports demonstrated robust performance, surging over 30% on a month-on-month basis and an impressive 43% year-on-year growth, reaching 0.9 million tonnes. This positive momentum comes despite the moderation in imports and an increase in outbound shipments. However, provisional data from the Steel Ministry indicates that India maintained its status as a net importer for the first 10 months of the fiscal year (April – January).
Import Trend: Imports during these 10 months stood at 6.8 million tonnes, reflecting a substantial 38% year-on-year increase. This exceeded exports, which totalled 5.5 million tonnes, by 1.3 million tonnes or 3.6%. Comparatively, the previous year saw 5 million tonnes of imports and 5.4 million tonnes of exports in the same period.
Shift in Trade Balance: Despite being a net importer overall, January marked a turning point as India became a marginal net exporter of steel by 0.1 million tonnes, breaking a near six-month streak of declining exports. Finished steel imports in January registered at 0.8 million tonnes, showing a 14% month-on-month decrease (compared to December) but a significant 29% year-on-year increase.
Industry Insight: Jayant Acharya, Joint MD and CEO of JSW Steel, expressed concerns about rising steel imports driven by a weak global market. Despite a recent surge in global steel prices bringing domestic prices close to parity, he anticipates limited impact on imports during the January–March period (Q4 FY24).
Price Dynamics and Market Expectations
Price Improvements Expected: Market sources anticipate price improvements in the January-March period, traditionally considered a “seasonally strong quarter” for steel mills. The recent uptick in global steel prices, with Europe seeing a rise of USD 100-120 and China about USD 40, is expected to influence the import-export dynamics.
Furthermore, Jayant Acharya of JSW Steel emphasised that these price changes are already being reflected in export orders, bookings, and realizations. He anticipates a boost in export volumes and suggests a likely limit or even a reduction in imports compared to the last quarter.
January 2024 Insights:
Steel Ministry data for January 2024 reveals intriguing trends. Non-alloyed steel imports, the primary item, stood at 0.6 million tonnes, indicating a robust 45% year-on-year growth but a 12% month-on-month decline. Meanwhile, alloyed, and stainless-steel imports experienced a 13% year-on-year dip and a 23% month-on-month decrease, totalling 0.14 million tonnes.
For the April–January period, non-alloyed steel imports surged by an impressive 69% year-on-year, reaching 5 million tonnes. In contrast, the non-alloyed and stainless-steel segment witnessed a 14% dip, totalling 1.8 million tonnes.
Key non-alloyed steel offerings showed a 53% year-on-year increase to 0.8 million tonnes in January, with a 33% month-on-month growth. Non-alloyed steel exports remained steady on a month-on-month basis but experienced a year-on-year decline of around 20%. For the 10 months, non-alloyed steel exports reached 5 million tonnes, reflecting a remarkable 51% year-on-year growth. However, exports for non-alloyed and stainless steel totalled 0.4 million tonnes, marking a significant 71% year-on-year decrease.
The growth of India’s steel sector is attributed to easy access to domestic raw materials and a cost-effective labour force, making it a key contributor to the nation’s manufacturing output. As the industry confronts global market complexities, its resilience and adaptability will shape its future path. The interplay of import-export dynamics and price fluctuations will define the industry’s landscape. With modern steel mills and a commitment to continuous improvement, India’s steel sector remains poised for sustained global competitiveness as the world’s second-largest producer of crude steel.
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