India’s steel exports grew over 30 per cent month-on-month and 43 per cent YoY to 0.9 million tonnes (mt) in January. Moderation in imports and a corresponding uptick in outbound shipments notwithstanding, the country remained a net importer for the first 10 months of the fiscal (April – Jan), according to provisional data of the Steel Ministry, accessed by businessline.

Importsat 6.8 mt, up 38 per cent YoY, exceeded exports, which stood at 5.5 mt, by 1.3 mt or 3.6 per cent, for the 10-month period. Imports stood at 5 mt and exports at 5.4 mt in the year-ago-period.

Jayant Acharya, Joint MD and CEO, JSW Steel, in a recent investor call said following the recent rise in global steel prices, domestic prices are now close to parity, which, according to him, will have a limiting impact on imports in the January–March period (Q4 FY24).

“However, rising levels of steel imports on the back of a weak global market is a concern,” he said.

Ministry data show that during January, India was a net exporter of steel by a marginal 0.1 mt, breaking a near six-month streak of declining exports.

Finished steel imports stood at 0.8 mt, down 14 per cent MoM (over December), but was up 29 per cent YoY. Indian exports nearly rose after six months of continuous decline.

Price improvements

Market sources say price improvements are expected in the January-March period, which is generally a “seasonally strong quarter” for steel mills. Steel prices increased in January and also for early February deliveries, over December.

Global prices have gone up in Europe by $100-120, and in China by about $40.

Acharya said price changes are also being reflected in export orders, bookings and realisations.

“What you will see during Q4(FY24) will be higher export and you will see a likely limit of imports or maybe lower imports vis-a-vis the last quarter,” he said, adding that the company anticipates “better volumes” (banking on exports).

Import–export trends

Ministry data showed that in January 2024, import of non-alloyed steel – the primary item – stood at 0.6 mt, up 45 per cent YoY, but slipped 12 per cent on a MoM basis. Alloyed and stainless steel imports dipped 13 per cent YoY and by 23 per cent MoM to 0.14 mt.

For the 10-month period (Apr – Jan) non-alloyed steel imports increased 69 per cent YoY to 5 mt, whereas the non-alloyed and stainless steel segment dipped 14 per cent to 1.8 mt.

On the export front, key non-alloyed steel offerings increased 53 per cent YoY to 0.8 mt, while on an MoM basis, it went up by 33 per cent. Non-alloyed steel exports remained at almost the same levels on a MoM basis, but dipped YoY (by 20 per cent-odd).

For the 10-month period, exports stood at 5 mt, up 51 per cent YoY for non-alloyed steel, and at 0.4 mt for non-alloyed and stainless steel, down 71 per cent.