Article by Peter Cranfield
Chart 1 shows stainless steel slab production for the first three quarters of 2019 at around 40 Mt (million tonnes). China accounted for over half the global production, which is typical for a number of other metals. Other producers in Asia were also prominent, notably India, Japan, South Korea and rising star Indonesia, which ramped up its recently constructed JV on Sulawesi Island. These five Asian countries accounted for over three quarters of global stainless steel slab production. The USA accounted for 5%, Belgium 3%, Italy 3% and Finland 2%. Among others Taiwan was the largest, followed by Spain, Sweden, South Africa, Brazil and Germany.
Global stainless steel slab production was up by 3% but markedly different by location, as shown in Chart 2. Slab production increased by 12% in China and 4% in India where capacity has increased. There were significant declines in Japan, USA and South Korea. There was no change in Indonesia but I feel this is a pause for breath in that they have not yet raised production levels close to newly installed capacity. There were declines in the ‘others’ category, including Taiwan (the largest of the others) where output fell by 17%.
Chart 3 shows stainless steel exports by the top exporting countries. The global total fell by 7% from 17.2 to 16 Mt. It is interesting that exports have fallen significantly in a period when global production increased slightly. The fall seems to be across the board with the exception of Indonesia, where we know they are ramping up the newly installed capacity, which is mainly for export. Some of the European exports are slabs and hot band to the own rolling facilities of domestic producers.
Chart 4 shows imports over the period and at this stage of the year is useful to show who the main importers are. Total reported imports fell by 18% from 17.4 to 14.3 Mt. This does not match exports and is partly under-reported at this stage. When WBMS completes the annual
stainless review in the second quarter of 2020 the adjustments will be made and a fuller picture will emerge.
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