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Analysis: India faces further steel imports as demand growth exceeds output growth

Singapore — India's economy may face rising steel imports amid market concerns that consumption growth of finished steel for financial year 2018-2019 outstripped that of production, latest Joint Plant Committee data showed.

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Consumption grew 7.5% year on year to 97.54 million mt, while production rose 3.7% to 131.57 million mt from April 2018 to March 2019. Typically, India's financial year begins in April and ends in March.

Imports for the year increased 4.7% year on year to 7.83 million mt, while exports plunged 33.9% to 6.36 million mt. As a result, India reverted to being a net importer of finished steel after two years as a net exporter.

"India is one of the major steel economies with consumption increasing at a higher rate than that of production and would remain a vulnerable target for inflow of cheap imports," India's steel ministry said in April.

Privately-run steelmakers accounted for 86% of the production at 113 million mt, which itself was up 3.7% on the year, while the public sector was responsible for 18.57 million mt, or about 14%.

Domestic consumption is expected to slow, but stay above 7%, the Indian Steel Association had said, citing 7.2% growth for both financial years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021.

The slowdown will be due to weakness in the automotive and consumer products sectors, the association said.

In fact, the bulk of the imports comprised of flat steel products such as hot-rolled and cold-rolled coil and steel plate, totaling 6.78 million mt, or about 86.6%.

In financial year 2018-2019, South Korea exported about 2.94 million mt of flat products to India, which represented a 37% share of overall imports.

Hyundai Steel is expected to supply automotive steel sheets to a new Indian plant operated by South Korean car maker Kia Motors. The car maker began trial production of a 300,000-unit/year automobile plant at Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh in March, and expects commercial production in July 2019.

-- Clement Choo, clement.choo@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Norazlina Jumaat, newsdesk@spglobal.com