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India's steel exports fall for second straight month in Aug as local demand rises

Singapore — India's finished steel exports fell for the second consecutive month in August, falling 24.5% to 1.04 million mt compared with July amid higher local demand, provisional data from the Joint Plant Committee showed.

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Finished steel consumption stood at 7.50 million mt in August, up 7.7% versus July as several steelmakers posted higher annual sales for August.

For instance, Steel Authority of India Ltd., or SAIL, said Sept. 3 it sold 1.43 million mt of steel in August, up from 1.06 million mt a year ago but down from 1.58 million mt in July 2020.

Due to the higher domestic demand, several steelmakers have reduced their export availability to meet local needs.

"The company's steel export volumes have come down significantly with an increase in domestic sales post the lockdown period," Vidya Ratan Sharma, managing director of Jindal Steel and Power Ltd., or JSPL, said Sept. 3.

In spite of the lower monthly exports, overall exports from April to August 2020, the first five months of the Indian financial year, nearly doubled to 5.68 million mt, surging 94.8% from an year earlier.

"Both JSPL and SAIL have delivered 35% year-on-year growth in sales volume. While there is a definite base effect, volumes are nearly at record levels for both the companies," said Amit Dixit, assistant vice president at Mumbai-based Edelweiss Financial Services. "In the case of JSPL, we see positives on several fronts: impressive uptick in steel volumes and highest ever capacity utilization at pellet plant and DRI [direct reduced iron] plant."

Imports, on the other hand, more than halved during the five-month period, down 51.7% at 1.67 million mt after taking into account August, which plunged 81.1% on the year to 162,000 mt.

Amid the higher local demand, India's crude steel production rose 5.1% in August to 8.49 million mt compared with July, marking its fourth straight monthly hike, but down 4.2% from August 2019.

With production figures summed up, crude steel production over April to August fell 27.4% to 33.55 million mt from the previous year.

Finished steel production in August grew 6.7% from July at 7.90 million mt but shed 5.5% on the year, putting April-August output at an overall 29.05 million mt, down 33.2% versus the corresponding period of 2019.