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Global steel production nudges up despite pandemic

Crude steel production grew in Asia and the Middle East last year despite the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the World Steel Association (worldsteel), global crude steel production totalled 1 877 million tonnes in 2020, up 0.1% from the previous year.

While oxygen furnace production increased by 2.2% to 1 373 million tonnes, the global electric furnace total was down 5.7% to 493 million tonnes. The data is set out by Rolf Willeke, statistics advisor to BIR, in the ferrous division’s latest ‘Mirror’. China continues to lead from the front and reported a year-on-year increase in crude steel production of 5.2% to 1 053 million tonnes, lifting the country’s share of global production from 53.3% in 2019 to 56.5% in 2020.

There was also growth in crude steel production in Turkey (+6.1% to 35.810 million tonnes) and Russia (+1.7% to 73.199 million tonnes). Declines were registered by the EU-28 (-11.8% to 138.786 million tonnes), Japan (-16.2% to 83.195 million tonnes), the Republic of Korea (-6.1% to 67.121 million tonnes) and Canada (-14.8% to 11.0 million tonnes).

Steel scrap consumption in China rose 2% last year to 220.3 million tonnes, underlining China’s position as the world’s largest steel scrap user. Because of higher oxygen furnace production, the proportion of scrap used in its steel production was slightly lower at 20.7%. Scrap usage also increased in Turkey (+7.8% to 30.077 million tonnes) and the proportion of scrap used increased to 84.1% in 2020.

However, there were declines in steel scrap consumption in the EU-28, the USA, Russia, Japan and the Republic of Korea. Steel scrap consumption in the USA last year fell 17.6% to 50.0 million tonnes while the country’s crude steel production decreased by 17.2% to 72.7 million tonnes. The proportion of steel scrap used in US steel production dropped to 68.8%.

Turkey remains the world’s foremost steel scrap importer and in 2020 there was a 19% year-on-year increase in overseas scrap purchases to 22.435 million tonnes. India was the world’s second-largest steel scrap importer in 2020 despite an overall year-on-year decline of 23.7% to 5.383 million tonnes. New to third place was the USA (+5.7% to 4.512 million tonnes).

The EU-28 remained the world’s leading steel scrap exporter, growing outbound shipments in 2020 by 4% to 22.627 million tonnes. The main buyer was Turkey on 14.055 million tonnes (+17.5% year-on- year). The EU-28’s internal steel scrap exports totalled 27.054 million tonnes (-5.5% compared to 2019).

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