South Korea joins Turkey as main EU suppliers

EU finished steel imports in January-April dropped -16% on-year, with flat products intake down -17% and longs down -11%, says European steelmakers’ association Eurofer. Turkey was no longer the clear leader in imports supplied into the EU, as its 18% share in overall imports was equalled by South Korea.

Four-month finished steel imports from Turkey and China fell -51% and -40% respectively, while intake from India declined -28%. Imports from Russia and South Korea, however, rose 8% and 4% respectively.

Four-month strip mill and hot-rolled wide strip imports fell -26% and -32% respectively. Hot-dipped galvanised sheet intake declined -21%. Quarto plate imports recorded a fall of only -1%. Heavy sections, rebar and merchant bar imports dropped -68%, -36% and -11% respectively, but wire rod imports rose 2%.

EU four-month overall steel exports, meanwhile, fell -13%, with flats and longs down -15% and -13% respectively. Shipments rose to Egypt by 7% and China by 3%. However, exports to the US and Turkey fell -43% and -10% respectively.

Only quarto plate recorded export growth. Hot rolled wide strip exports dropped -31%, hot rolled flat strip mill by -30% and strip mill by -21%. Exports of rebar and wire rod recorded significant drops, while merchant bar and heavy sections fell only slightly.

The EU’s total steel product trade deficit amounted to 1.031 million tonnes/month over the first four months of 2020. The largest trade deficit in finished products was with South Korea, at 263,000t, followed by Russia with 257,000t and Turkey with 62,000t. A trade surplus remained with the US, Switzerland and Algeria.

“The risk is that any growth of EU steel demand in early 2021 would mostly benefit imports due to the unused quota transfer mechanism,” Eurofer comments in a report sent to Kallanish. Global overcapacity remains the core issue. “Excess capacity is still being built up without solid economic justification in countries such as China, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, or Turkey.”