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Steel imports a serious threat, says Seshagiri Rao of JSW Steel

The change in trade balance threatens to dampen the environment for Indian steel makers, who are already facing a demand slowdown since November 2018.

January 22, 2019 / 04:42 PM IST
 
 
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Stressing on the need to raise duties, Seshagiri Rao, JSW Steel's Joint Managing Director and Group CFO, said that steel imports have become a ‘major threat’ for the domestic industry.

"In the first nine months, even as exports from India fell by 38 percent, imports to India have grown exponentially," Rao said during an industry conference in Mumbai.

Exports from Japan, South Korea and China have increased by 45 percent. And in the case of Vietnam, the exports have seen a 425 percent jump, he said.

The change in trade balance threatens to dampen the environment for Indian steel makers, who are already facing a demand slowdown since November 2018.

"We need to protect our borders," Rao stressed.

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On the other hand, steel minister Birender Singh said that even as the government is aware of the developments, the situation is not 'jittery'.

"We are not getting jittery. We are not in a hurry to take any step," he told mediapersons on the sidelines of the event.

Net importer

Earlier this financial year, India had become a net steel importer for the first time in two years. By June, the imports had reached 2.1 million tons, up by 15 percent.

Much of the import is coming from Japan and South Korea, countries with whom India has free trade agreements.

About 80 percent of the hot rolled steel coming to India, is being imported from Japan and South Korea.

India has now become a favoured market for these countries after they were hit by protectionist policies imposed by the Donald Trump administration in the US.

The situation has been worsened by the slowdown in the steel industry in China, the world’s largest.

"In the first 10 months of last year, Chinese steel makers made $51 billion of operating profit. But in November-December, they have lost 26 percent in profits," Rao said.

Consequently, steel production in China has seen a drastic cut. From 84 million tons in October 2018, China produced 76 million tons of steel in December.

Much of these steel is being sold at just break even, or below break-even prices, thus softening the rates world over.
Prince Mathews Thomas heads the corporate bureau of Moneycontrol. He has been covering the business world for 16 years, having worked in The Hindu Business Line, Forbes India, Dow Jones Newswires, The Economic Times, Business Standard and The Week. A Chevening scholar, Prince has also authored The Consolidators, a book on second generation entrepreneurs.
first published: Jan 22, 2019 04:42 pm

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