New Delhi: Imports of steel during the first nine months (April-December) of 2008-09 have fallen by 14% to 4.8 million tonnes, a development that could weaken the industry’s demand for increasing import duty.
As against the total steel imports of 5.6 million tonnes in the corresponding period in 2007, the shipments declined by 0.8 million tonnes in April-December 2008, following a demand slump in the midst of the global economic downturn.
“As steel was readily available at a competetive price ($500 a tonne) in the domestic market, the importers did not opt for overseas shipments, which resulted in a decline in imports,” steel secretary PK Rastogi said.
Going by the Steel Ministry’s data, imports of non-alloy steel, used primarily by construction and automobile sectors, dipped by 18% to 4.3 million tonnes till December, while in case of non-alloy products, including stainless, it increased by over 50% to 4.5 lakh tonnes.
“Imports have been declining throughout the period on a month-to-month basis. In case of flat products, it dipped by 19%, but for long-products, it registered a marginal 4 per cent growth,” an official source said.
In addition to demand slump and pricing, what checked the steel imports was the government’s move to curb shipments from overseas by shifting some of the products like HR coils under the restricted list of items, industry experts said.
The government had also slapped a 5% import duty on steel even as the domestic producers wanted a higher tariff of 15% to thwart possibe dumping of the commodity from countries like China, Ukraine and Thailand.
Now that the imports have fallen, industry sources said, the Commerce Ministry may soon convene a meeting of major steel producers to take stock of the situation with regrads to restriction of shipments from abroad.