Editorial -May 2022
Like any microscope has different magnification levels, similarly iron & steel industry will look different from different distances, angles. From outside, all looks well. The user industries such as infra, construction, auto are putting up a strong performance thus giving a strong support to the steel demand in this country. Government’s (centre as well as many state governments) emphasis on developing infrastructure like roads, ports, airports, metros etc. gives a lot of confidence to a steel business professional. Today the industry sentiment is really quite high and a lot of greenfield and brownfield projects are being implemented. The banks and the financial institutions are eager to lend money to steel projects and even the share market investors are (for a change) bullish about steel & metal companies. Even if 300 mtpa capacity creation by 2030-31, as mentioned in National Steel Policy, lookd farfetched target some time back, I am gradually getting a feeling that we may not be far behind by the turn of the decade.
If one goes slightly closer to the industry and try to understand the situation from a purchase or even marketing perspective, we will come to know that the raw material prices have skyrocketed post Russia-Ukraine war. Even the availability is an issue. Marketing guy will complain about high freight charges and non availability of containers. He has big export orders in hand but can’t fulfill the commitment. With reduced Chinese exports and the war disturbance in part of Europe, Indian mills have tremendous export opportunity but for the hurdles mentioned above. Now of course the Indian government has introduced duties with the objective to soften the finished steel prices to some extent, to improve the domestic availability and to support the domestic demand curve.
What is the real scenario on the project side ? Almost all the projects, wheather greenfield or brownfield, are getting delayed, not due to typical Indian burocracy, not due to finance, logistic or manpower bottleneck, but for non availability of the critical electronic components required for the today’s automated plants. Most of these components are being imported from China and today with the outbreak of covid and lockdown in multiple cities in China, congestion at ports, these components can’t reach India and the project can’t be fully commissioned. Whether this is a well thought Chinese strategy is something to be debated at the government level and is outside the purview of the industry.
So friends, grass always looks greener from a distance. The iron & steel industry, though looks vibrant and growing, has many fault lines. Let us be careful and cautious !