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India's steel industry resumes partial operations amid prolonged lockdown

Singapore — India's steel industry has begun a gradual resumption of operations despite no clear indications of when a nation wide lockdown resulting from the coronavirus pandemic will be fully lifted.

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The government has extended the lockdown further to May 17, which was supposed to expire on Sunday. It was extended as there were concerns that the country might lose its gains in the fight against the coronavirus if the lockdown was not prolonged.

JSW Steel said Monday that it had resumed operations and was "gradually ramping up capacity." On March 25 JSW, which has around 18 million mt/year of capacity, had curtailed domestic steel production but gave no details.

S&P Global Platts had reported that JSW shut one blast furnace at its Vijayanagar plant in Karnataka on March 25, and cut production rates in the other three to 50% on March 25 and 25-30% from March 26 onwards.

Elsewhere, effective May 2, Monnet Ispat & Energy restarted its integrated steel plant at Raigarh, Chhattisgarh, the steelmaker said Sunday.

But its "Raipur, Chhattisgarh will continue to remain temporarily suspended till further notice," it said. Monnet Ispat, which has a production capacity of 1.2 million mt-1.3 million mt, was taken over by Aion Investments II and JSW Steel in August 2018.

Steel cablemaker Usha Martin said it resumed partial operations of its plant at Ranchi in Jharkhand state on April 23 after it shut operation as a result of the government order. The company has a combined production capacity of 250,000 mt/year.

More recently, Usha Martin restared its plant at Hoshiarpur in Punjab state, on Thursday.

Goa Carbon, which shut its 125,000 mt/year plant at Paradip in Odisha on March 23, is expected to resume operations Thursday. The company makes calcined petroleum coke that are used in graphite electrodes for electric arc furnaces and raising the carbon content in steelmaking and ductile iron foundries.

Amid the lockdown, in March, India produced 8.04 million mt of crude steel, 20.0% less year on year and down 15.9% from February, data from the Joint Plant Committee showed, while March finished steel output fell 23.7% year on year to 7.09 million mt which was also 14.5% lower from the month before.

Steel demand is expected to be weak in April as carmakers posted weak sales data.

For instance, Maruti Suzuki India reported zero sales in the domestic market for April as all its plants were shut due to the lockdown, while Bajaj Auto posted April sales of 37,878 units, a 91% plunge year on year.