February 2, 2018 / 10:21 AM / 21 days ago

Indian steel output to jump after budget infrastructure boost - govt official

NEW DELHI, Feb 2 (Reuters) - India’s steel output is expected to rise by a record 10 percent during the next fiscal year starting on April 1, a government official said on Friday, driven by a budgeted increase in infrastructure spending in the world’s third-largest producer of the alloy.

Indian steel production is expected to be around 103 million tonnes in the fiscal year to March, and rise by 10 percent in the 2018/19 fiscal year, said Steel Secretary Aruna Sharma.

“These are conservative estimates. Last year’s budgetary allocation to infrastructure gave an impetus to domestic steel consumption by 5.7 percent. At least we hope we should touch 6 percent growth in consumption next year,” Sharma told Reuters.

India, which aims to nearly triple its production over the next decade, will see increased demand largely in housing, roads, construction of railway stations, and airports, Sharma said.

India’s crude steel production rose to a record during the calendar year 2017, jumping 6 percent from a year ago to 101.23 million tonnes.

Sharma was cautious about the impact of possible trade measures by the United States.

On Thursday, U.S. steel companies and industry groups urged President Donald Trump to impose the measures to curb excess steel capacity and rising imports they say are undermining the domestic industry.

The U.S. is the world’s biggest steel importer but India only exports 4 percent of their alloy there. However, Indian companies have been trying to raise high-end steel sales to U.S. buyers.

“We are not dumping,” said Sharma, the top civil servant in the steel ministry. “Even if the U.S. imposes duties, we will have to see how much it is and so we will wait and watch.”

Top Indian steel companies are also in talks with Canada’s Teck Resources Ltd, the largest North American producer of coking coal, for long-term purchase agreements, Sharma said.

India, alongside top buyers China and Japan have been scouring new markets for the key raw material in steel making, after a powerful cyclone hit Australia last year leading to slower output and firmer prices. (Reporting by Neha Dasgupta; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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