The world produced and consumed close to 1,535 million metric tons of crude steel in the year 2015. Emerging economies are quickly climbing the production graph, with some of them having as much as 50% share in gross production of crude steel.
Colossal leaps in technology, rise in basic income levels, and dynamic geo-political and politico-economic factors are partly contributing to the surge in demand, which in turn is forcing nations to increase production and, in some cases, create an excess.
But excess production or export is a worrying trend for global economy. Surplus production of steel means surplus exports at extremely low prices, resulting in stark reductions in foreign demand for steel and mass job layoffs abroad.
Several global powers have been pushing for cuts in excess production and exports in order to rescue job markets.
This article will detail major trends in global steel production, allowing the reader to form an informed opinion on the looming questions over global steel trade and its future.
China surpassed all goals and reached a staggering 808.4 million metric tons of crude steel in 2016.
China’s excess crude steel production has already gotten several nations, including the US, the EU and India, worried as they claim that it has opened the Pandora’s Box.
The US and other major economies are holding talks with China on its extremely cheap, surplus exports. As per top journalists, economists, and market and political analysts, public uprisings on the need to keep factories running and the GDP at an all time high, is forcing China to produce more crude steel than the entire world needs. This reportedly helps their jobs stay intact.
But several nations claim that China is using “western markets as export dumps”, causing massive layoffs offshore and the resulting low steel production in the US.
China exports 106.6 million metric tons and witnessed an unimaginable growth of 364% since 2009. South Korea, Vietnam, and Philippines are the largest buyers of Chinese steel.
Most of China’s steel producing companies are state-owned and state-run.
Hesteel Group and Baosteel Group are China’s biggest steel processors and cater to the global steel and allied markets.
The overhang of production capacity has also made China hold 50% share of global steel production. China’s growth in the steel sector is set to grow further due to politico-economic factors coupled with domestic development, and also its increasing geo-political influence on the South China Sea.
Though the graphs fluctuate, Japan has maintained its steel production quantity mark above 104 million metric tons after falling from 110.6 million metric tons in 2014.
The cause of this fall is being tagged to the massive sales tax hike in the Island Nation. There is no clear consensus on any sort of revival. However, a stimulus can help the nation recover, as per experts.
Japan remains second largest exporter of sophisticated, high-grade steel with 40.4 million metric tons being sold all over the globe. Despite the fall in production, it has managed to rise 22% in export growth. South Korea, Thailand, and China are the major buyers of Japanese steel.
Nippon & Sumitomo and JFE are the largest steel producers in Japan.
As per lead economists in reputed columns, India is set to overtake Japan to become the second largest producer of crude steel in the world. After reaching 95 million metric tons at the end of 2016, the world’s fourth-largest economy produced 101 million metric tons in February 2017, quickly increasing by 11%.
India, the 14th largest exporter of crude steel, supplied 10 million metric tons of steel to global buyers. India had a meteoric 75% growth in exports as per a few estimations. Other estimations go as far as 101% to 142%. Imports, however, have fallen by nearly 25%.
The biggest buyers of steel from India are Nepal, Belgium and Bangladesh.
TATA Steel Group, Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL), and JSW Steel Limited are India’s top steel producers. These are also recognized as the some of the largest export-quality steelmakers in the world.
4. The United States of America:
After experiencing a sharp drop in crude steel production from 88.2 million metric tons to 78.6 million metric tons in 2016, the USA’s steel health doesn’t seem to improve.
Market researchers claim that cheap, excess imports from large developing economies are forcing domestic steelmakers in the Western markets to shut operations and lay off jobs, causing the production deficit.
The US, also the largest importer of steel, is in talks with several huge producers in developing economies to curb excess exports that can prove catastrophic to the global market.
Economists, however, predict that the status quo of steel production will return to normal.
Despite this, the USA still exports high-grade steel to nearly 150 countries, the largest buyers being Canada and Mexico. Nucor, US Steel, and ArcelorMittal are the largest steelmakers in the US.
The ninth largest steel exporter has sold nearly 9 million metric tons of steel to 150 economies.
After a spike in production in 2014, Russia’s steel production silos have slowed down with a gradual reduction in output in 2016 at 68.6 million metric tons. However in the first quarter of 2017, Russia produced nearly 70.8 million metric tons of steel.
Russia maintains its ground as the third largest steel exporter with 31.1 million metric tons of steel exports as of 2016. The global power also witnessed a sharp 22% overall increase in exports since 2011.
Russia exports mainly to Turkey, Taiwan and Mexico. Russia’s largest steel producers are Novolipetsk Steel, Evraz Group and Severstal JSC.
6. South Korea:
South Korea is the sixth largest producer of steel, processing more than 68 million metric tons of steel as of 2016.
The production trends, however, show fluctuation with minute reduction in early 2017. Experts claim that the figures are only set to better since it’s premature to conclude anything before the end of the fiscal.
The nation is also the fourth largest exporter of crude steel in the world. And its major buyers are China, the US and Japan.
With POSCO and Hyundai Steel Co. being the biggest producers of South-Korean steel, the exports have reached nearly 30.3 million metric tons.
Germany, known for its high-grade steel, retains its position as the seventh largest crude steel producer in the world. As of 2016, its steel produce stands at 42.1 million metric tons, only a minuscule decrease from results in 2015.
The technological hub is now the fifth largest exporter of crude steel. France, Poland and Netherlands are consumers of German-made steel.
German-made steel is popularly used in the automotive and weaponry sectors.
ThyssenKrupp, ArcelorMittal, and Salzgitter are Germany’s largest steel producers.
As per experts, Germany is set to overtake many other countries in the coming years in terms of production quantity.
After a gradual fall in production due to regional political uprisings, Turkey’s steel silos and production units are reviving with a sharp increase from 31.5 million metric tons to 33.2 million metric tons (or 9.7% growth) as of May 2017.
Turkey’s steel export increased by 2%, from 14.8 million metric tons in 2015 to 15 million metric tons in 2016.
The largest consumers of Turkic steel are the US, Egypt and the UAE.
The largest producers of steel in Turkey are Erdemir Group, Içdas and Habas.
Brazil’s economic crisis has sharply reduced its crude steel output by nearly three million metric tons, standing currently at 30.2 million metric tons in 2016.
According to a renowned national steel association in Brazil, since 2014 the South American nation’s steel industry has closed 83 functioning units, axed more than 40,000 jobs, and delayed investments worth USD 3.2 billion.
As per the association, the nation reduced its crude steel output by almost 9.2%. This has affected allied sectors, including Automotive.
Brazil’s steel export has fallen down 2% to 13.4 million metric tons.
The largest producers of steel in Brazil are Gerdau, ArcelorMittal, USIMINAS, and CSN.
And even though Brazil still holds a position in the top tier of world steel producers, its situation, according to experts, will not improve any time sooner.
The Eastern European country, Ukraine, has plummeted two positions, from eighth in 2010 to tenth in 2016, in terms of crude steel output. A major ongoing military conflict crippled the nation’s steel production, which is currently standing at 24.2 million metric tons, since it is taking place in the Eastern side where most of the steel units are situated.
As of 2017, Ukraine exported 18.2 million metric tons, indicating a 30% decline in overall exports amid the political debacle.
Metinvest, ISD, Corporation, JSC, and Zaporizhstal are the largest steelmakers in Brazil.
Egypt, Turkey and Italy are the largest consumers of Ukraine’s steel produce.
Experts are hopeful as the country’s crude steel output has seen a slight recovery of nearly 2 million metric tons.
Ukraine still holds a rank in the top ten largest producers and exporters of crude steel.