ISSB maintains a detailed database of the imports and exports of steel and steelmaking raw materials for more than 60 major steelmaking nations, collectively accounting for 97% of global steel output. This high level of coverage also allows an accurate assessment of the trade flows for those countries for which we cannot obtain national trade data.
In 2014 global output reached 1,665 million tonnes, an increase of just 1% when compared to last year. This slow-down in growth is driven by the reduction in Chinese growth as where once the country was the driver for global production increase, this year the country’s contribution remained broadly flat. What growth there is has instead come from other Asian countries with South Korea showing an 8% increase and India up by 6%; the EU, driven predominantly by increases in Poland and France; NAFTA and the MENA region. China remains by far the largest producer of steel in the world, however, with the EU, Japan, the US and India making up the top five and given the rate of growth in the country it would not be a surprise to see India overhaul the US as the world’s fourth largest producer in 2015.
Below we summarise World Steel Association crude steel production data.
China is now by far the largest global exporter of steel as a declining domestic market meant that steel makers within the country targeted markets further afield. Exports from the country nearly doubled to a staggering 88.6M tonnes, a remarkable increase of 30.8M tonnes in a year which is more than the combined annual production of Mexico and Canada. South Korea and Russia were the other countries to show a large amount of growth with Ukraine and Turkey suffering declines year on year.
The increasing demand for steel in the US was taken up by imports in 2014, increasing 38% year on year. Continued improvement in the economy of the EU led to imports into the region increasing by 13% with the other main global importer, South Korea, also seeing an increase when compared to 2013.
Global Trade in Steelmaking Raw Materials
Iron ore exports continue to be dominated by Australia and Brazil and it is interesting to note that alongside the collapse of the price of iron ore, world exports have increased by 10% year on year, partly due to Chinese steelmakers finding it cheaper to import high grade ore from these countries than to rely on lower grade domestically produced ore.Outside the top two exporters, India which used to be the third largest exporter of iron ore in the world, has dropped out of the top ten entirely as court action shut the industry in Goa for the last two years. Sierra Leone has started to become a major player in the iron ore scene in recent years, increasing from a standing start in 2011 to 19M tonnes in 2014.
Global Trade in Scrap
In contrast to the iron ore trade, total world exports of scrap declined moderately year on year with the largest two importers both showing falls when compared to 2013. There were some increases from various EU countries as the industry picked up slightly there with Italy, Spain and Belgium all showing rises. Chinese scrap imports fell considerably, however, and their place in the top 11 importers was taken by Vietnam.
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