India's goal to double its steel production may face hurdles due to the European Union's potential restrictions on scrap metal exports, essential for India's steel industry due to its insufficient domestic scrap supply.
India's ambitious plan to expand its steel production significantly by the end of this decade might hit a snag. The European Union is considering placing limitations on the export of scrap metal as part of its effort to curb industrial emissions. This move could spell trouble for India, which relies heavily on imports to meet its steel-making needs.
The country has set a goal to increase its steel production capacity to 300 million metric tons by 2030. However, with nations focusing more on recycling scrap domestically to minimize the environmental impact of steel production, India's scrap-deficient market feels the pressure. The potential EU restrictions, meant to ensure waste is only exported to countries with stringent environmental policies, could tighten the availability of scrap metal for Indian producers.
India ranks as the second-largest importer of European scrap, with the United States, Central and South America, Asia, and the Middle East as other key suppliers. The Indian steel industry's consumption of ferrous scrap metal is expected to surge by 50% to 60 million metric tons by the end of the decade, with imports projected to reach around 20 million metric tons.
In 2022, India spent over $12 billion on metal scrap imports, a figure that has more than doubled in five years. Steel scrap is particularly crucial as it serves as raw material for electric arc and induction furnaces widely used in the country.
However, major exporters like the US, Europe, and the Middle East are considering ways to retain these valuable resources. This trend compels Indian steel manufacturers to aggressively seek alternative supply avenues. Companies such as Tata Steel Ltd., JSW Steel Ltd., and ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel Ltd. are already moving towards using more scrap to align with the EU's impending cross-border carbon tax regulations.
To bolster its recycling capacity, Tata Steel inaugurated its first steel recycling plant in northern India in 2021. But the overall recycling infrastructure in India remains in its nascent stage, largely because of the small number of old vehicles available for scrapping.
The Indian government has attempted to catalyze recycling efforts and reduce vehicular pollution through a vehicle scrapping policy launched in 2021. Although it's a step in the right direction, the policy has yet to gain significant traction.
As Indian society advances and the generation of domestic scrap increases, industry experts like Dhawal Shah of Metco Ventures LLP believe India's dependency on imports will naturally decline. The journey towards a mature recycling ecosystem is underway, and with time, India is expected to become more self-reliant in meeting its steel production needs.
India's steel industry faces a challenging path as it navigates through potential export restrictions on scrap metal from the European Union. These limitations could hinder India's target to double its steel production capacity. However, the nation's efforts to improve domestic recycling capabilities and secure alternative import sources demonstrate resilience and foresight. While the road may be tough, India's commitment to expanding its steel sector remains undeterred.