NEW ORLEANS Global stainless steel production grew 5.2 percent to 35.4 million tonnes in 2012, although output in regions outside China declined due to destocking, according to the International Stainless Steel Forum (ISSF).
Stainless steel production of 2.37 million tonnes in the Americas was 4.7 percent lower than in 2011, preliminary figures from the ISSF showed. While production in the second and third quarters of 2012 showed year-on-year growth of 2.5 and 9.1 percent, respectively, the first and fourth quarters yielded year-on-year drops of 22 and 2.2 percent.
Chinese output jumped 14.2 percent to 16.1 million tonnes last year, although production in the rest of Asia was down 0.6 percent to 8.7 million tonnes. Japanese production fell 2.5 percent to 3.2 million tonnes, while Taiwanese production was down 7.8 percent. The only Asian countries to record growth in 2012 were South Korea, which notched a 0.5-percent uptick, and India, which logged 5.3-percent growth.
Asian stainless steel producers now account for 70 percent of global production, the ISSF noted.
Western Europe and Africa produced 7.8 million tonnes of stainless steel last year, down 0.7 percent from 2011.
The ISSF said that chromium-manganese (200-series) grades "have grown in importance" over the past few years, while the market share of chromium (400-series) grades also has increased.
"When you are a distributor and the price goes down, you buy at the last minute to sell the next day. This is pushing everyone to reduce stock and buy last-minute in order to avoid depreciation of stock, which has been hurting everyone in our industry for the past two years," Aperam SA chief executive officer and newly elected ISSF chairman Phillippe Darmayan said.
"The service industry is in a difficult position because of a lack of growth and overcapacity, because the capacity that has been builtparticularly in Asiahas been built in anticipation of growth much higher than what the reality has been," he said. "Im very confident that the need for stainless steel will one day allow all these capacities to be filled, but so far its a difficult moment to pass and there will obviously be some need for capacity adjustment and individual measures."
The ISSF estimated that chromium-nickel alloys (300-series) accounted for 54.1 percent of the stainless market last year, followed by 400-series material (a 24.8-percent market share) and 200-series material (21.1 percent).