NEW DELHI, March 17 (Reuters) - India’s finished steel exports plunged 8% in February from a year earlier, their first decline in eight months, government data showed, as demand from traditional buyers in Europe and South East Asia contracted due to coronavirus outbreak.
India, the world’s second-biggest steel producer, shipped 570,000 tonnes of finished steel in February, as against 619,000 tonnes a year ago, according to government data reviewed by Reuters. The decline in Feburary was the steepest since April, the data showed.
“Demand has evaporated from all our importing nations,” Arnab Kumar Hazra, assistant secretary general at Indian Steel Association, an industry group that also represents major steel producers, told Reuters.
India still remained a net exporter during April-Feb with shipments at 7.78 million tonnes, data showed. The country’s top buyers include Vietnam, Italy, Belgium and Spain.
India’s local steel consumption in February also took a hit and fell to its lowest in four months, data showed, indicating a deepening domestic economic slowdown. India’s finished steel output in February fell to a two-month low at 8.56 million tonnes.
“After February, domestic demand has improved. Situation is still stable. But going forward, let us see how things pan out,” Jayant Acharya, director of commercial and marketing operations at JSW Steel Ltd, told Reuters.
The coronavirus outbreak is set to stifle broader economic growth in Asia’s third-largest economy, analysts say. The economy had expanded at its slowest pace in more than six years during Oct-Dec.
India closed the Taj Mahal, its top tourist site, and the financial hub of Mumbai ordered offices providing non-essential services to function at 50% staffing levels as efforts to control the spread of coronavirus in South Asia ramped up.
Reporting by Neha Dasgupta; Editing by Nidhi Verma and Jane Merriman