Source: S&P Global Platts
Ferrous scrap import destinations in Asia saw mixed results in 2019, amid trade flow changes and weaker steel performance during the second half, painting a different picture from 2018.
As regional steelmakers came off a strong and profitable year in 2018, 2019 however, presented various challenges from the likes of western billet flows diverting into Asia, growing crude steel capacities within the region, lofty scrap prices amid falling steel demand, and even changing environmental policies.
Source: respective customs figures (in million mt)
China saw the largest change with a drastic drop of 87% from a year ago, importing only 0.18 million mt.
However, the plummet in volumes was intended, and reflected the level of success by the Chinese government's move on its bans and restrictions against imported scrap since 31 December 2018, in its bid to fight against being a destination for "trash".
INDIA LEADS ASIAN PEERS
India saw an 11% growth in scrap imports, the highest in Asia at 7.05 million mt, with the country's crude steel production hitting 111.2 million mt in 2019, up 1.8% from a year ago, or in contrast to just 89.0 million mt in 2015, figures from the World Steel Association showed.
The South Korean import market grew 1.7% year on year, but saw crude steel production within the year falter 1.4% to 71.4 million mt.
Import volumes to South Korea peaked during first half of the year, but subsequently caved in to a weaker steel performance in beginning of the third quarter.
Vietnam and Taiwan both performed relatively poor in 2019 imports, falling by 1.2% and 2.8% respectively to 5.58 million and 3.53 million mt.
The Vietnamese steel industry saw stiffer competition from within, as new blast furnace additions pressured EAF and IF mills to strive within an environment of high scrap-melting cost and an "overcrowded" product market.
Taiwanese steelmakers too saw rougher mill performances in 2019, as global trade protectionism stymied export opportunities for steel. Total iron and steel export volumes were down 8.2% on the year to only 10.81 million mt.
Bangladesh, although without customs figures, was seen as a promising destination on the map as new capacities started coming online.
Regional traders too were heard to be turning attention to the country in 2019, in hopes of getting a share of their import pie, S&P Global Platts heard.