Author Archives: Sohrab Darabshaw

India produced 8.4 million metric tons of steel in January, registering a growth of 12% against the same period last year, according to data by the World Steel Association. India became one of the top major steel producers in the world, beating China whose production grew by 7.4%.

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The WSA report only props up what the government here has been saying for some time now, that India is making efforts to ramp up domestic steel and to ensure more consumers opt for it rather than other materials such as plastic.

India needs more scrap if it’s to meet its production goals. Source: Alumisource.

At a “Make In Steel” conference in the nation’s capital, New Delhi, Minister of Steel Chaudhary Birender Singh said steel demand grew 3.3% from April to December 2016, and growth was expected to continue in the coming months due to long-term government policies and an increase in infrastructure spending. Clearly, all of this is not mere lip service.

Steel Ministry officials and domestic steelmakers are optimistic that with more infrastructure projects coming up, demand will likely continue to increase.

The WSA predicted steel demand in India will grow at a rate of 5.7% in 2017.

To push demand, the government has used a combination of measures — incentives, imposition of various trade remedial measures such as minimum import prices, anti-dumping and safeguard measures and better quality control.

To increase consumption and production, it also unveiled a draft National Steel Policy 2017, to soon replace the National Steel Policy 2005. The policy aims to increase the domestic steel production capacity to 300 mmt from the current 85 mmt by 2030-31.

Now, as one more step in the process, it has decided to set up of two scrap-based steel plants, one in the west and the other in the north of the country, to boost production capacity. India has relatively few steel scrap-based electric arc furnaces (EAFs) of low capacity compared to similar-sized nations.

Over 40% of scrap available in the four states in northern India and around 67% of the scrap the western state of Gujarat was imported. Steel made out of scrap is expected to be of higher quality and could be used for expanding production of end-use products such as scientific instrument.

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Currently, India imports 6 mmt of scrap annually but will be able to produce 7.5 mmt of scrap by 2025 as supply from end-of-life cars and trucks, a major supply stream, is expected to grow.

Much to the delight of not only its executives and employees but both the global steel sector and even stock markets, the Luxembourg-based steel giant ArcelorMittal has posted its first annual profit in more than five years, registering the biggest jump in earnings in the same period.

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The world’s largest steelmaker by output swung from a $7.9 billion net loss in 2015 to a net profit of $1.8 billion last year. Read more

Slowly but surely, India seems to be shifting the goal posts on its minimum import price policy designed to protect the domestic steel industry.

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India recently extended the anti-dumping duty on cold-rolled flat steel products from four nations, including China, Brazil and South Korea to guard the domestic steel industry from cheap imports for another two months. The duty was expected to expire after six months and was recently extended to give it a total duration of eight.

Domestic Indian steelmakers could see their protective minimum import prices for steel products lifted. Source: Adobe Stock/ft2010.

India had previously imposed a minimum import prices (MIP) to protect the steel industry and the cold-rolled duties came in addition to the MIP. The policy was described as a short-term emergency measure while anti-dumping duties are a long-term measure to protect the country’s trade.

Yet, according to a recent media report, India’s steel secretary Aruna Sharma said there would be no minimum import price (MIP) extension for 19 steel products.

How the MIP Started

India started imposing an anti-dumping duty of $474-$557 per metric ton on hot-rolled flat products of alloy and non-alloy steel imported from China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Brazil and Indonesia in August. Read more

Initial panic in India over reports of an executive order to be signed by U.S. President Donald J. Trump tightening the non-immigrant H-1B visa regime has subsided. Outsourcers, primarily from India, are the top recipients of H-1B visas, managing the technology departments of large U..S corporations with imported staff.

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From anxiety, the mood here has now dropped to a “wait and see” one. The Government of India has tried to allay fears by saying no such executive order has been passed and Foreign Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup explained to the media that three private bills in the matter had been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, adding that such bills had been introduced in the past, too, and the mere introduction of them is nothing new. For now, the government does not want to say anything more, since the bills have to go through the full Congressional process.

Panic at the IT Department

Analysts say the panic was natural since news about the likely change in the H-1B visa rules came soon after the new President banned refugees and travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries from traveling to the U.S. (the travel ban has since been temporarily lifted by a temporary restraining order from a federal judge). Read more

Two global steel giants, India and Japan, are headed toward a trade war. For once, one participant in the trade row isn’t the U.S… not directly, at least.

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Japan, the world’s second-largest producer of steel, has threatened to take India to the World Trade Organization over import restrictions asserted by India. If incoming reports are true, Japan may soon be joined by Taiwan and even Russia.

Despite the excellent trade relations the two nations enjoy, Japan is unhappy with India’s decisions to place a minimum import price and other assorted duties to protect its domestic steel industry. Japan claims this has halved its steel exports to India in the last year.

Working quietly on the sidelines, Indian government officials having been trying to iron out differences with their Japanese counterparts and settle the dispute in consultation but, so far, the sides have not had much luck. According to a news report, India’s Director-General of Safeguards and the Ministry of Steel were assessing points raised by Japan against the calculation of safeguard duties so that they could counter Japan and defend the duties before the WTO. India, obviously, does not want Japan — for that matter any other nation — to escalate this matter into a full-fledged dispute at the WTO.

But why is Japan reacting now, especially since some of the restrictions have been in place in India for almost two years? Analysts say that with U.S. President Donald Trump raising the cry of “America, First,” Japan is now concerned that it could lose a large chunk of its steel export market, and thus, is making an open stand for what it considers free and fair international trade. India is just the proxy country used to fight a larger war against MIPs and other border taxes.

A Japanese industry ministry official, explaining a Dec. 20 request for WTO dispute consultations with India over steel safeguard duties and the MIP for iron and steel products, said it needed to stop unfair trade actions from “spreading.”

India imposed duties of up to 20% on some hot-rolled flat steel products in September 2015, and set a floor price in February 2016 for steel product imports. India’s anti-dumping duty amounts to $474-557 a metric ton on hot-rolled flat products of alloy and non-alloy steel imported from China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Brazil and Indonesia in August. These nations account for almost 90% of India’s steel imports.

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Russia and Taiwan, too, may join Japan in requesting consultations at the WTO over India’s use of a MIP regime. Proceedings could start as early as February.

Two years ago, India overtook the U.S. to become the third-largest steel producer in the world, but now finds itself a net importer of steel in 2015-16.

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To address this and other steel issues, the Indian government has drafted and recently released a “National Steel Policy” for 2017. The policy aims for production target of 300 million metric tons per year by 2030-31, up from the current 122 mtpy, a reduction in imports and also a hike in the current production of a crucial raw material, coking coal.

India’s steel ministry says the policy is an effort in steel circles in India to steer the industry to achieve its potential and a strategy to overcome various hurdle such as high input costs, lack of availability of raw materials, and to try to achieve the 300 mtpy target in an environmentally friendly manner so that the country can reach its correspoding global efficiency benchmarks.

A major disadvantage that the Indian steel sector faces is the limited availability of essential raw materials like coking coal, both in quantity and quality. Most steel producers have to depend on imports to overcome this impediment, mostly from neighboring China.

The National Steel Policy aims at achieving increased domestic availability of washed coking coal so as to reduce import dependence on coking coal by 50% by 2030-31. Under the plan, India is aiming for per capita steel consumption of 160 kilograms per person from the present 61 kg.

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India’s crude steel production in 2015-16 was 89.77 million metric tons. The country’s steel sector, the only silver lining in an otherwise bleak global steel economy last year, faced challenges. Heightened steel demand domestically in India could see it get there. In 2015, for example, India was the only large economy in the world where steel demand continued to grow positively at 5.3%, against negative growth in China at -5.4%.

The Steel Ministry is seeking comments on the policy draft from stakeholders and public.

After filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year and subsequently being declared “hopelessly insolvent” by a judge, U.S. energy giant SunEdison Inc. is winding down its operations in India.

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SunEdison is exiting its India business by selling 1.7 gigawatts of wind and solar farms to Greenko Energies Pvt.

Foreign Investment

Greenko is backed by the sovereign wealth funds of Abu Dhabi and Singapore. The two sites include one with 440 megawatts of capacity already operating and another 1,200 mw of projects still under development including a 500 mw solar project. Reports pegged the projects total assets value at about $500 million. Read more

The Asia Pacific region, especially countries such as China and India, has been driving the aluminum-free food pouches market.

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A new report said an increasing number of middle class customers with greater spend power, were being attracted toward cost-effective aluminum-free pouches. The high numbers could also be attributed to the large populations of China and India. The APAC region was followed by the European and the North American markets, respectively.

Why Pouches?

The report by Transparency Market Research (TMR) said consumers like the pouches because they are lightweight and easy to handle, in addition to being environmentally friendly, not to mention their low cost compared to the more common aluminum pouches. They also offer flexibility and ensure better shelf visibility.

Can aluminum-free pouches replace not only glass and aluminum, but also more common aluminum pouches? Source: AdobeStock/iaremenko.

TMP said many changes were occurring in the food packaging system from the way food is produced to how it was distributed, stored, processed and retailed. Food pouches, used for everyday food products, combine the advantages of traditional, rigid food packaging with modern flexible material.

The aluminum-free food pouch, also known as the alu-free pouch, was designed to have a number of advantages over aluminum including superior barrier property, near-perfect air-tightness, optimal puncture resistance to preserve the organic qualities of the food and diverse options for easy opening.

Aluminum-free pouches are required to be recyclable and easily disposable. Therefore, many companies in the APAC region switched to using them. In Europe and the U.S., a patented Ensobarr barrier coating has replaced the aluminum lamination in packaging boards.

Aluminum vs. Aluminum-Free

Based on consumer feedback, manufacturers in all regions are shifting from rigid packaging options that involve the use of glass and aluminum to more flexible packaging options. One option was the stand-up pouch, currently sees its demand going up due to innovations in their packaging styles using resealable spouts and cap. Near-zero leakage of liquids was another reason behind the high demand.

The report said the aluminum free food pouch market could be segmented on the basis of material type, pouch type, by its application and by region. On the basis of material type, the market was divided into flexible plastic which includes films and sheet, rigid plastic and others. The market can be further segmented into flat pouches, stand up pouches and others, while on the basis of application, it can be classified as vacuum, resealable, retort, spouted and stick market.

Many fresh food packaging companies are also shifting to the aluminum-free food pouch as it offers customization and the scope to create new packaging designs that companies require, rather than a one-size-fits-all can or jar.

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Product innovation and expansion are the key strategies adopted by major players in the aluminum-free food pouch market. Some of the key players in this market are Astrapak Limited, Berry Plastic Corporation, Coveris, Mondi Group, and Sonoco. These companies switched to aluminum-free food pouches as they gained expertise and experience in delivering them over the years.

After more than four years of languishing, some hope’s been rekindled in India’s iron ore mining sector.

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Ore production jumped 22% between April and October, according to figures released by the government. Iron ore production stood at 100 million metric tons during the resurgence, against 81 mmt during the same April to October period a year ago. What’s brought even more cheer is the news that exports, too, jumped 9 times their previous level, to 9 mmt from last April to September, as compared to 1 mmt, the same period last year.

Export Taxes

With a steep price hike in global markets aided by protectionist measures for the domestic steel industry, will India see a resurgence in iron ore exports? Not so fast.

India has plentiful iron ore stockpiled but taxes are holding up exports. Source: Adobe Stock/nikitos77.

The protectionist measures imposed by India’s government previously included an export duty tax of 30% on high-grade iron ore. Many within the mining sector are of the opinion that the export tax must go, or at the very least be reduced, to boost exports. Read more

Anti-dumping actions were once again a hot topic this year. Back in February India imposed a minimum import price for nearly all foreign steel entering the country. This was only one of many anti-dumping actions taken this year with both the U.S. and European Union tightening tariffs this year. — Jeff Yoders, editor

It’s a problem that’s dogged almost all the major economies as well as developing nations – the dilemma of steel cheap imports. Steelmakers in the U.S. have, in the past, not only cried foul at the World Trade Organization but also imposed steep anti-dumping duties on cheap imports from China, Korea and India making their way into the U.S. market, thus further depriving an already-stressed out market.

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A few days ago, as reported by MetalMiner, seven EU nations asked the European Commission to intervene to stop cheap imports of steel, particularly from China and Russia.

India has imposed a minimum import price on most steel products. Source Adobe Stock/Jovanning.

India has imposed a minimum import price on most steel products. Source Adobe Stock/Jovanning.

In India, a market where steel consumption continues to grow bucking global trends, the situation is no different. So, finally giving in to the loud protests by domestic steel companies against cheap imports, the Indian government recently imposed a minimum import price (MIP) ranging from $341 to $752 per metric ton on 173 steel products as a “temporary” measure.

Minimum Import Prices

The MIP conditions are valid for six months from the date of the notification or until further orders, whichever is earlier. The MIP, though, will not be applicable on imports under the advance authorization scheme and high-grade pipes used for pipeline transportation systems in the petroleum and natural gas industry are exempt.

The move seems to have gone down well with a majority of the steel trade bodies and a large section of India’s steel industry, but some have called it simply a band-aid for the hemorrhaging steel sector.

India’s domestic steel production between April-January 2016 dropped 1.8 % to 75.66 million mt, while imports rose 24.1% to 9.3 mmt. Consumption grew 4.2% to 65.91 mmt. For domestic steelmakers, apart from the MIP, the import duty has also been raised to 10% for flat products and 7.5% for long products.

The rationale behind the MIP was explained by Steel Secretary Aruna Sundararajan, in an interview with The Economic Times. She said the move would give India’s steel industry much-needed breathing space to get healthy.

Emergency Measure

Over the last couple of years, India had seen a spurt in steel imports, leading to a decline in prices. According to the Steel Secretary, India had over 400 mmt of surplus steel. All that surplus has put the domestic steel industry into distress.

While imposing the MIP, the Indian government also took care to ensure that downstream users were not affected. That’s why certain categories of steel — required by end-user industries — not manufactured in India, were exempted.

The government’s decision to impose MIP will, however, reduce the benefit of lower commodity prices for automobile companies, according to many experts. Also, according to the engineering goods exporters’ body, EEPC India, the MIP will lead to further erosion in engineering exports. It has thus sought from the government a compensatory mechanism to make up for the increased raw material price (about 10%) for the distressed exporters, mostly in the small and medium-sized enterprises segments.

The Indian government has dubbed the MIP an “emergency provision.” In the next six months, it will be looking at anti-dumping duties  and moving toward more stable, longer-term measures. It will also be keeping a close watch on imports after the MIP, as well as the response of domestic steel companies and consumers.