India continued to remain a net importer of steel in May, with shipments coming in (imports) exceeding exports by 0.12 million tonnes (mt) in May by 0.20 mt for the first two months of the fiscal.

The country was a net exporter in the year ago period, a report of the Steel Ministry, accessed by businessline shows.

Finished steel imports coming in for May stood at 0.55 mt, up 13 per cent y-o-y, against 0.49 mt in the year-ago-period. However, on a sequential basis, imports declined by 5 per cent in comparison to April when steel shipments coming in stood at 0.59 mt. Imports for April – May FY25 was up 20 per cent y-o-y to 1.14 mt.

In comparison, export of finished steel stood at 0.43 mt for May, down 38 per cent y-o-y. For the first two months, the outbound shipments stood at 0.94 mt, down 40 per cent y-o-y. On a sequential basis, exports slipped 15 per cent with April exports being around 0.51 mt. Exports in May 2023 was 0.70 mt.

“The positive takeaways are imports have seen some moderation m-o-m and domestic demand has remained strong. However, there is continued pressure on exports,” a Ministry official said.

Export offers on hold

Meanwhile, India’s tier-1 mills have reportedly kept their export offers on hold, with their primary focus being catering to the domestic market. Consumption growth in India has been close to 11 per cent y-o-y, increasing to 23.035 mt for April and May versus 20.85 mt for the same period a year-ago, as per the Ministry report.

Some mills have also announced a price increase of around ₹500 - 1,100 per tonne which comes into effect from June 1.

The bench-mark hot-rolled coils (HRC) export offers by the Indian steel mills stood at around $275 per tonne to Europe. This comes after the European Commission announced a 15 per cent import cap on HRC exceeding existing quotas.

“Vietnamese buyers are cautious and the European market is sluggish despite import restrictions,” consultancy firm, BigMint said in a report.

Import curbs on met coke

Meanwhile, in a parallel development, the Steel Ministry has raised objection to the Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR), under Union Ministry of Commerce, recommending imposition of quantitative restrictions shipments of ‘low-ash metallurgical coal’ coming-in.

Suggestions are to restrict met coke volumes to 2.85 mt annually, at least 1 mt less than 2023-levels. Metallurgical coal is a key raw material for steel–making.

China, Indonesia and Poland are the top suppliers of metallurgical coke to India and the country’s imports have surged by 61 per cent over the last four years.

In a letter, Nagendra Nath Sinha, Secretary, Ministry of Steel, said acceptance of the recommendations will cause “disruption in the supply chain, the production and supplies to downstream customers of the steel industry”.

“In addition, trade barrier in the form of safeguard measures or duty (quantitative restrictions) would also affect availability of met coke and increase its cost. This would in turn adversely affect the competitiveness of the Indian steel industry....” he wrote in a letter addressed to his counterpart in the Union Ministry of Commerce.