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Steel scrap use down 10% in first half year

The coronavirus pandemic has had a more negative impact on global steel scrap use than on the production of crude steel.

Figures from worBldsteel for the first six months of 2020 confirm a year-on-year fall in global crude steel production of 6% to 873 million tonnes, as against 928 million tonnes in the same period of 2019. The information came from Rolf Willeke, statistics advisor of the BIR Ferrous Division, who presented the key findings during a webinar hosted by the world recycling organisation.

Production down

Only China from the key producers showed a year-on-year increase in crude steel production (+1.4% to 499.011 million tonnes). Production falls were reported by the EU-28 (-18.7% to 68.278 million tonnes); USA (-18.3% to 36.198 million tonnes); Japan (-17.4% to 42.209 million tonnes); Russia (-0.1% to 36.243 million tonnes); the Republic of Korea (-9.5% to 32.592 million tonnes); and Turkey (-4.1% to 16.290 million tonnes).
For January-June 2020, total steel scrap use in the key countries and regions covered by BIR was 209.834 million tonnes, a 10.5% decline from the 243.536 million tonnes for the same period of 2019. All the countries and regions recorded a year-on-year downtrend.

China remains biggest scrap user

In the first six months of 2020, there was a 7.3% drop in China’s steel scrap usage for crude steel production to 93.75 million tonnes, as compared to 101.13 million tonnes for the same period in 2019. However, Chinese steel scrap consumption of 52.22 million tonnes in the second quarter of 2020 was 25.7% higher than the 41.53 million tonnes consumed in the first quarter. These figures confirm that China remained the world’s largest steel scrap user during the period under review.

EU, US, Japan down

For the same period, steel scrap usage for crude steel production dropped in the EU-28 (-13.3% to 39.812 million tonnes); USA (-18.9% to 20.2 million tonnes); Russia (-7.3% to 14.551 million tonnes); Japan (-19.8% to 14.294 million tonnes); and the Republic of Korea (-8.3% to 13.569 million tonnes). Meanwhile, Turkey reported a decrease of 4.3% to 13.658 million tonnes with the reduction in scrap-intensive electric furnace production (-4.3% to 11.419 million tonnes) being slightly more pronounced than the drop in the country’s crude steel production (-4.1%).

Turkey buys more


The first six months of 2020 brought a 7.8% year-on-year upturn in Turkey’s overseas steel scrap purchases to 9.009 million tonnes, confirming the country’s position as the world’s foremost steel scrap importer. Also higher over the same period was Switzerland’s steel scrap import total (+10.2% to 0.238 million tonnes).Conversely, the Republic of Korea, the world’s third-largest steel scrap importer, recorded a steep fall in overseas purchases (-33.5% to 2.414 million tonnes). Declines were also reported by USA (-12.7% to 1.982 million tonnes); EU-28 (-9% to 1.367 million tonnes); and Russia (-59.7% to 0.211 million tonnes). Data for India (the second-largest steel scrap importer), Pakistan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico and Belarus was not available at the time of writing.

EU scrap shipments to India halved

The first half of 2020 brought a 10.7% decline in the EU-28’s overseas shipments to 9.776 million tonnes but it nevertheless remained the world’s leading steel scrap exporter during the period under review. There were decreases in the EU-28’s outbound shipments to India (-50.5% to 0.563 million tonnes) and to Norway (-9.2% to 0.168 million tonnes). Conversely in the first six months of 2020, there were increases in EU-28 deliveries to Turkey (+2.6% to 6.137 million tonnes); Egypt (+14.1% to 0.969 million tonnes); Pakistan (+3.5% to 0.733 million tonnes); and Switzerland (+11.5% to 0.243 million tonnes). Shipments to the USA were unchanged on 0.311 million tonnes.

The largest EU-28 steel scrap exporter (according to EU-28 extra-trade figures) was the UK with a half-yearly shipment total of 2.501 million tonnes (-25.2% when compared to January-June 2019).

EU-28 internal exports (according to EU-28 intra-trade figures) totalled 12.986 million tonnes in the first half of 2020 (-14.4% when compared to January-June 2019).

Turkey, Mexico up

The first six months of 2020 also brought a fall in US overseas steel scrap exports (-2.3% to 8.401 million tonnes) with reduced shipments to Taiwan (-2.6% to 0.850 million tonnes); Canada (-32.4% to 0.614 million tonnes); and the Republic of Korea (-46.1% to 0.390 million tonnes). Higher US steel scrap exports were recorded in the first half of 2020 to Turkey (+11.2% to 1.951 million tonnes); Mexico (+36.1% to 0.950 million tonnes); and Bangladesh (+33.3% to 0.605 million tonnes).

Russian market shifts

Russia’s overseas steel scrap shipments were also lower during the same period (-7% to 2.172 million tonnes) with the leading customer being Turkey (+6.4% to 1.161 million tonnes). In contrast, Japan’s overseas shipments of steel scrap soared 38.2% to 4.884 million tonnes in the first half of 2020: the main buyers were the Republic of Korea (-24% to 1.633 million tonnes); Vietnam (+83.6% to 1.566 million tonnes); Taiwan (+189.3% to 0.700 million tonnes) and Bangladesh (+315.8% to 0.395 million tonnes).

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