EU imports of Russian iron and steel, nickel, copper and aluminum down 11%-49%

The European Union continues to cut its imports of Russian iron and steel, aluminum, nickel and copper in the first quarter with declines ranging between 11% and 49% year on year, although there were exceptionally high purchases of Russian alloy steel and aluminum cans and containers, according to data collected in S&P Global Market Intelligence Analytics Suite.

In January-March, the EU bought 1.42 million mt of iron and steel products under HS code 72, a decline of 11% from 1.59 million mt imported in the first quarter last year.

Compared with Q1 2022, imports dropped by 57.5% from the 3.3 million mt. Steelmaking inputs and semi-finished steel made up 93% of the total in the first quarter this year, while in Q1 2022 sponge iron and semis comprised two-thirds, meaning that the total reduced at the expense of higher value-added products.

Year-on-year, the biggest declines were reported in the imports of spongy ferrous products and in pig iron, with both contracting by roughly 100,000 mt each to 254,541 mt and 198,754 mt, respectively.

Imports of semi-finished steel remained broadly stable at 874,130 mt.

Alloy steel imports soaring

Imports of alloy steel from Russia increased significantly however, rising by more than ten times year on year to 54,514 mt in Q1. This was also up from 20,100 mt in Q1 2022.

Imports of ferroalloys saw rose to 22,420 mt, up 47% from 15,246 mt in the first quarter last year, but still below 74,050 mt imported in the first quarter of 2022.

In Q1 2024, the EU bought 24,145 mt of Russian nickel under HS code 75. Nickel mattes, oxide sinters and unwrought nickel comprised over 98% of the total. The overall tonnage was 31% lower year on year, and 55% lower compared with the first three months of 2022.

Copper imports (HS code 74) from Russia saw a 35.2% year on year drop to 11,890 mt, which was also 89.3% lower than the tonnage imported in Q1 2022. Refined copper and copper alloys comprised 90% of the total.

Aluminum saw steepest decline

The EU’s first quarter imports of Russian aluminum under HS code 76, excluding casks, cans and structures, fell more than the other metals, nearly halving to 101,770 mt. This was also a 65.5% decline from 295,116 mt imported in January-March 2022. Unwrought metal comprised over 87% of the total.

However, the EU ramped up its purchases of Russian aluminum-made casks, drums, cans and containers – all measured in units rather than tons. In Q1 2023, imports stood at 11.19 million units, almost 24 times more than 473,616 shipped in a year earlier, and in January-March 2024, imports remained elevated at 7.79 million units.

Author: Katya Bouckley,