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Twin challenge to EU stainless steel

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The European stainless steel industry may not fully recover from the full effects of Covid-19 until 2023, according to a leading expert on the sector.

Joost van Kleef, commercial director of Oryx Stainless, is also concerned at a growing penetration of finished products into the European market.

The businessman, who chairs the world recycling organisation’s stainless steel and special alloys committee, notes in the quarterly BIR Mirror that, although demand for stainless steel has recovered from its lowest levels in March and April, overall European demand was back to around 70% of pre-pandemic levels.

‘Any recovery will take significantly longer than many anticipate – with some leading market analysts forecasting this to be 2023,’ he warns. But even with a recovery, Van Kleef is concerned that an increasing volume of stainless is being produced outside the EU and imported.

‘The latest development within Taiwan should be seen as a warning sign whereby some market participants have just shut down their furnaces and are importing stainless slab instead from Indonesia; in other words, an environmentally-friendly product made from stainless scrap is replaced by one which entails a significantly higher volume – perhaps around five times higher – of carbon dioxide emissions.’

He argues the recycling industry must concentrate its efforts on keeping stainless scrap an attractive and competitive raw material.

Also writing in the mirror, Uwe Dierkes managing director, Siegfried Jacob Metallwerke, describes the critical aerospace market as being in ‘freefall’ because of the pandemic.

‘Superalloy mills are not producing, with any orders being on a just-in-time delivery basis. Scrap processors therefore need to be sitting with processed stock and able to deliver quickly. This will probably be the new norm until passenger jet numbers return to pre-Covid levels.’

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