EU steel demand to reach pre-pandemic levels in 2021, grow in 2022: Eurofer

The EU’s apparent steel consumption is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels this year and continue growing in 2022 ,driven by the continued improvement in demand from steel-using sectors, European steel association Eurofer said Aug. 16.

After a difficult period that was impacted considerably by the pandemic, consumption is set to increase by 11.2% this year, reaching 143 million mt, and then to grow “more moderately” by 3.7% in 2022 to 149 million mt.

EU steel consumption in 2020 plummeted by 10.6% to 129 million mt, after a drop of 5.3% registered in 2019 to 144 million mt, the association said.

That followed a record-high year in 2018, when apparent consumption was 152 million mt.

“The loosening of COVID measures over the third quarter of 2020 allowed industrial activity to restart, with a considerable rebound in output compared to the record lows seen in the preceding quarter,” Eurofer said.

The recovery continued – at an even faster rate – over the fourth quarter of 2020 and up to the first quarter of 2021, driven by a faster-than-expected demand especially from domestic appliances and automotive sectors.

The fourth quarter of last year registered growth in apparent consumption (+3.6%), the first quarterly growth in apparent consumption since the fourth quarter of 2018. This trend continued over the first quarter of 2021.

Domestic deliveries by EU steel suppliers increased year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2020 by 4.6%, after eight consecutive quarterly drops, reflecting the improvement in demand within the EU. Positive developments were also observed in the first quarter of 2021, albeit at a lower rate (+1%), the association said.

Total imports of finished products into the EU marginally increased year-on-year in the first quarter of 2021 (+2%) after a drop of 5% in Q4 2020. This was the first increase since the third quarter of 2019. Imports surged considerably over the second quarter (+44%), “mirroring improved demand across the EU but also — to a limited extent — due to the comparison to the low levels recorded in the second quarter of 2020,” Eurofer said.

Imports were volatile across 2020 and in early 2021, continuing a trend seen in 2019. In the second quarter of 2021, the main countries of origin for finished steel imports into the EU market were Turkey, Russia, South Korea, India and Ukraine, which together accounted for 78% of total EU finished steel imports.

— Annalisa Villa