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Stainless steel production soars in China in 2019

The Brussels-based International Stainless Steel Forum (ISSF) has released figures for stainless steel output in 2019. Those figures show output in China rose 10 percent, while production in every other region fell compared with 2018.

Because of China’s 10.1 percent rise in melt shop production, the global output of stainless steel increased by 2.9 percent year on year to 52.2 million metric tons in 2019.

While Chinese mills were churning out stainless steel slabs, coils and ingots at a record pace, output fell by 7.9 percent in Europe, 7.6 percent in the United States and 3.7 percent in the rest of Asia. An ISSF “others” category that includes Brazil, Russia and South Africa saw output fall by 2 percent.

By volume, the 24.9 million metric tons of stainless steel produced in China in 2019 represented 56.3 percent of the global total.

According to a February presentation by Anil Shah of Canada-based Ni-Met Metals Inc. at the Material Recycling Association of India (MRAI) 2020 meeting, China relies much less on stainless steel scrap than the rest of the world to produce its slabs, coils and ingots. He said from 2015 to 2018, China’s stainless steel producers used just 22.3 percent scrap as feedstock. During the same period, scrap comprised 77 percent of the feedstock for Indian producers, though India’s output is about 15 percent that of China’s. 


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Global and Chinese steel output rose in February

February steel production figures from Brussels-based World Steel Association (Worldsteel) show producers in China continued to churn out finished and semifinished steel during the country’s COVID-19 lockdown.

Despite government-mandated lockdowns throughout most of China during much of February, mills in that nation produced 74.8 million metric tons of steel that month, which was 5 percent higher than output in February 2019.

Steel industry analysts have expressed concerns that a significant decrease in steel demand in China in February and the first half of March will create a global steel glut that could suppress prices.

Investors in China, however, have shown some confidence that the situation there has turned around and that government stimulus programs will absorb much of that steel in the second quarter of 2020.

The February Worldsteel figures portray an industry that was beginning to slow down in some regions as the COVID-19 pandemic began to make its appearance in other parts of Asia and in Europe and North America.

The 28 nations of the European Union (with the United Kingdom still included) produced 9 percent less steel in February compared with one year earlier. Output also slumped in Taiwan by 5.5 percent compared with February 2019.

Other nations had shown a year-over-year increase in steel production in the first two months of 2020, before governments in Europe and North America began emulating COVID-19 social distancing and lockdown measures. That includes the U.S., with 2.4 percent growth over the first two months of 2019, and Turkey, with an impressive 12.7 percent output boost. Mills in Australia produced 900,000 metric tons, up by 6.1 percent compared with the first two months of 2019.

South American and Mexican steelmakers have struggled in early 2020, with Mexican output slumping by 16 percent, and South American production down 6 percent.