Ukraine to turn steel importer once post-war reconstruction starts, think tank says

Ukraine will likely turn into a net importer of steel once the war situation eases and reconstruction efforts start, Stanislav Zinchenko, chief executive of Ukraine-based think tank GMK Center, said at the Singapore Steel Forum on Thursday May 19

This is due to lower steel production rates in Ukraine, as well as the shutdown of the major Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol city, the biggest steelworks in the country.

While all other blast furnace-based steelmakers in Ukraine outside of Mariupol have resumed operations, utilization rates remained lower than optimal. Kametstal, ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih, Dniprovskyi, and Zaporizhstal are running at 20-65% of their capacity, Zinchenko said.

He estimated that Ukraine had lost 40% of pig iron export capability, 100% of plate and slab export capabilities, 30% of hot-rolled coil and cold-rolled coil export capacity and 30% of domestic hot-dipped galvanized supply, due to the war, especially with integrated mills in Mariupol – Azovstal and Illyich – suffering damage from the conflict.

Ukraine has also lost monthly export volumes of roughly 275,000 tonnes of slab, 200,000 tonnes of plate, 300,000 tonnes of flat steel, 100,000 tonnes of billet and 100,000 tonnes of long steel, according to Zinchenko.

Logistics will be another hurdle for Ukrainian steel exporters, especially with European port infrastructure not ready to handle large quantities of steel exports diverted from typical Ukrainian ports, he said.

Steel exports will also have to compete with seasonal exports of grain in the third quarter, he added.

“About 76% of Ukrainian steel exports in 2021 were seaborne,” Zinchenko said.

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