Maximilian Pogonii | Dreamstime
Continuous billet casting.

Global Steel Output Trailing Again

April 23, 2022
Steel production volumes continue to fall behind year-ago results, by nearly 7.0% YTD, as producers deal with supply problems, inflation, and other uncertainties.

Global raw-steel production totaled to 161.0 million metric tons during March 2022, up +15.1% from the February total, but still -5.8% less than the total for March 2021.  While showing a solid month-to-month improvement – +11.4% – the March result continued a trend of declining global steel output that has prevailed since mid-2021. Multiple factors have contributed to the decline, including rising inflation in the developed economies and the uncertainty introduced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Through the first three months of 2022, global raw steel production totals 456.6 million metric tons, -6.8% less than the January-March 2021 total.

All the figures are supplied by the World Steel Assn., which 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 volumes are accounted separately.

Earlier this month World Steel issued its latest Short-Range Outlook report for global steel consumption, and predicted 2022 would see a year-over-year rise of just +0.4%, citing Chinese government restrictions on real-estate and construction growth along with rising inflation worldwide and the instability surrounding the Russia-Ukraine war.

Most developed nations’ steel output rebounded during 2021, following pandemic-related cuts in 2020, in contrast to China’s effort to contain excess growth that began to show in mid-2021. That effort is the underlying cause of the ongoing decline in global output.

In March, China’s steelmakers produced 88.3 million metric tons of raw steel, 15.1% more than during February but -6.4% less than their year-ago total. China, which in the recent past has produced more than half of the world’s total output, produced 243.40 million metric tons during the January-March 2022 period – or 46.7% of the world’s total for that period.

Of the world’s other top steelmaking nations, India produced 10.9 million metric tons during March, +7.3% versus February and +4.4% versus March 2021. India’s Q1 output totaled 31.9 million metric tons, +5.9% more than during January-March 2021.

In other developed nations, the slow-down may be attributed to rising inflation and disrupted supply chains.

The Japanese steel industry produced 8.0 million metric tons during March, +7.3% more than during February but -4.3% less than during March 2021. The three-month total for Japan’s steelmakers is 23.0 million metric tons, -2.8% less than during the comparable period of 2021.

The U.S. steel industry’s March raw-steel output was 7.0 million metric tons (7.7 million short tons), +8.6% more than the February total but -1.7% below the March 2021 total. During the January-March period, U.S. raw-steel production total 20.3 million metric tons(22.4 million short tons), which is nearly even (-0.4%) with the result for the comparable period of 2021.

The European Union’s raw-steel output of 12.8 million metric tons during March is an -8.5% drop from March 2021, and the YTD total of 36.8 million metric tons is -3.8% less than last year’s Q1 result.

Finally, the Russian steel industry, the world’s fifth-largest according to 2021 output, produced an estimated 6.6 million metric tons during March, +12.1% compared to February but -1.8% less than the March 2021 figure. For the year to-date, Russian steel output is reported to be 18.7 million metric tons, or -1.2% below the January-March 2021 result.

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