The global steel industry is going through a slowdown, but the picture in Bangladesh is the opposite, with the sector registering 15 percent growth last year riding on large infrastructure projects.
Steelmakers said the growth would continue into the future because of the government's increasing spending on bridges and other major projects that will require the key construction material.
“In Bangladesh we are only thinking about growth, which we expect to continue for the next 10 to 15 years,” said Aameir Alihussain, managing director of BSRM Steel, the country's largest steelmaker.
He spoke at a seminar in Chittagong yesterday, held as part of the two-day International Steel and Raw Material Conference organised by SteelMint Group of India.
Bangladesh is one of Asia's most emerging steel markets thanks to its growing need for the raw material and steel making technologies.
In 2015, crude steel production is expected to increase from current capacity of less than one million tonnes to over three million tonnes, according to organisers.
At present, per capita steel rebar (reinforcement bar) consumption in Bangladesh is 25kg, but it will not stay there for too long, said Manwar Hossain, managing director of Anwar Group, a manufacturer of building materials and real estate developer.
The figure is tipped to rise to 50kg by 2022, he said.
The local sector grew from producing a meagre 47,000 tonnes in 1971 to four million tonnes in 2015. The production will double in 2022, Hossain said.
Bangladesh imports about 250,000 tonnes of hot-rolled coils, steel structures, steel coils, special steel, pipes, but it still has the potential to export steel, he added.
Although the country's steel sector remains mostly focused on domestic demand, it also has export prospects, especially to the northeastern states of India, Alihussain said.
Bangladesh is investing heavily in infrastructure development, especially in power generation, highways, bridges, buildings and telecom.
So, steel, cement and power will certainly play a crucial role in achieving the government's vision to become a middle-income country by 2021, organisers said.
All of this is creating a solid foundation for the emergence of a strong steel sector, Alihussain said.
Currently, steel is produced through the conventional process of re-rolling ship cutting plates.
But a structural change is being noticed in the steel industry: most of the re-rollers are adopting backward integration process in order to produce quality and cost-effective products.
Large players such as Abul Khair and BSRM have already commissioned high-capacity induction and electric arc furnaces, which will expand crude steel production significantly, the organisers said.
VR Sharma, CEO of Abul Khair Group, and Mahbubul Alam, president of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also spoke.
Senior officials of global steel companies such as Indicaa Group and MTC Group from India, Duferco Asia and GMS Singapore from Singapore, and Gemini Corporation NV from Belgium participated in the seminar.