India was a net importer of steel during the 2018/19 fiscal year, the first time in three years, as the country lost market share among its traditional steel buyers and imports jumped on demand for higher-quality steel domestically.
The country's finished steel exports fell by 34 percent in the fiscal year that ended in March to 6.36 million tonnes, according to preliminary government data given to Reuters on Friday. During the same period, finished steel imports rose 4.7 percent to 7.84 million tonnes.
India's exports during the fiscal year declined after rival steelmakers in China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia, blocked from markets in the United States and Europe by tariffs and other protectionist measures, ate away at the country's markets in the Middle East and Africa, according to an Indian government official with close knowledge of the matter.
Imports from the four Asian countries also climbed as they diverted supply into India, the source said.
Imports of value-added steel, primarily for the auto sector and high-end electrical steel were the biggest source of imports, the source said.
“The imports for producing value-added steel for the auto sector is mainly by foreign steelmakers like POSCO,” the source said, declining to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
India's Ministry of Steel has urged local automakers to cut Japanese and South Korean imports to support domestic producers but the automakers say they cannot get the quality of steel they need locally.
Indian steel companies have also sought imposition of higher duties on imports.
The steel ministry did not immediately reply to an emailed request for a comment on the import and export data.
While the government data did not specify stainless steel import levels, industry participants have noted overseas supply has climbed.