Global steel production rose 3.7% during 2021, totaling 1.95 billion metric tons according to the World Steel Assn., well ahead of that group’s recent forecast. The December totals show output continued to decline in China, the largest steelmaking nation by a wide margin, but steadily increasing rates of production in Japan and the U.S.
The World Steel Assn. tracks raw-steel output for 64 countries representing about 98% of global steel production – meaning carbon steel, produced in basic-oxygen or electric arc furnaces and cast into semi-finished forms like billets for bar and rod products; slabs for flat products; or blooms, for beam and pipe products. Specialty and stainless steel are accounted separately.
A global slowdown was forecast by World Steel in its October near-term outlook for global steel demand, pegged 2021 total output at 1.85 billion (100 million less than the actual result.)
Total steel output during December as reported by World Steel was 158.7 million metric tons, a -3.0% decrease compared to the December 2020 result.
The overall picture shows Chinese steel producers cutting their output, reportedly in line with that nation’s economic plan to avoid over-supply and slow excessive expansion in industrial and construction sectors. Meanwhile, industrial activity in other developed nations shows manufacturing activity resuming a more typical pace following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite the reversing trends, China remains by far the world’s largest steelmaking nation – averaging more than half of the entire global output. China’s December raw-steel output was 86.2 million metric tons, a 24.3% improvement over the total reported for November. However, the latest figure also is a -6.8% drop from December 2020 result – and the full-year total for Chinese steel output was 1.032 billion metric tons, a -3.0% year-over-year decrease.
The Japanese steel industry’s December output was 7.9 million metric tons, -1.2% less than the total for November but 5.4% more than the December 2020 result. For the full 12 months of 2021, Japan’s steelmakers produced 96.3 million metric tons of raw steel, which was 14.9% more than their total for 2020.
U.S. steelmakers produced 7.2 million metric tons (7.94 million short tons) of raw steel during December, the same total reported for November and 11.9% more than the December 2020 output total. For January-December 2020, the U.S. steel industry produced 86.0 million metric tons (94.9 million short tons) of raw steel, 18.3% more than their total for 2020.
Based on their reported annual raw-steel tonnages, the remaining top-ten nations for 2021 global steel output are: 5. Russia (76.0 million metric tons); 6. South Korea (70.6 million metric tons); 7. Turkey (40.4 million metric tons); 8. Germany (40.1 million metric tons); 9. Brazil (36.0 million metric tons); and 10. Iran (28.5 million metric tons.)