NEW DELHI: India's steel imports rose 18 percent in March, snapping four straight months of falls, provisional government data showed, on the back of deals struck before the government imposed a floor price in February to curb cheap imports.
Last week, the government extended safeguard taxes on some steel products until March 2018, and in February imposed a floor price on imports to deter countries such as China from undercutting local mills, the first such move in more than 15 years.
India, the third-largest steel producer in the world, shipped in 994,000 tonnes of the alloy last month, 18.2 percent higher than the corresponding month a year earlier, data from the Joint Plant Committee of the steel ministry showed.
"Some steel could have been booked in January and February. This is probably what has arrived in March," said Goutam Chakraborty, an analyst at Emkay Global Financial Services.
"Imports are likely to decline again in April and May," Chakraborty added.
Imports rose 20.2 percent in the fiscal year ended March 2016 compared with the same period last year, the data showed. Imports were up 9.1 percent compared with February. (https://bit.ly/1MRxHzh)
Domestic steel makers including JSW Steel <JSTL.NS>, Tata Steel <TISC.NS> and Kalyani Steels <KLSL.NS> have lobbied the government for more protectionist measures as margins have taken a hit due to cheap overseas purchases from China, as well as Russia, Japan and South Korea.
Consumption of steel, in the only major market where steel demand is growing, rose 4.3 percent between April 2015 and March 2016, largely driven by imports.
Steel exports by Asia's third-largest economy fell 32.4 percent at a time when the United States has named India among countries that violated anti-dumping law on cold rolled flat products and slapped a tax.
The following table shows steel production as well as trade data. Figures are in million tonnes. Some numbers have been rounded off.