IT’S TIME FOR A BRAVE NEW OUTLOOK
In our March edition, we reflected on the impact of COVID-19 and the early signs of a ‘return to normal’. But just as the road to recovery was in sight, the situation in Europe changed from stability to all-out war, almost overnight. This led to increases in the nickel and fuel prices and once again, the clouds of difficulty for our industry were building. Since then, more bad news has come in the form of uncertainty about the stability and availability of local electricity supply and it would seem that we are just not yet able to turn the final corner towards full recovery.
Against this backdrop, we have been fortunate to receive statistics from our sources that put the current global and local state of the industry into perspective. Whilst the global stainless steel industry is showing renewed activity, it remains subject to the longer term effects of the nickel price volatility as experienced this year. Global logistics are still not allowing the free flow of products globally as before the pandemic.
Our July member survey shows an upswing in our members’ perception of the local stainless steel industry for the next three months, from a low of 44% at the beginning of the year to a much more positive 54% in July. All respondents were still concerned with electricity supply, but the demand for stainless steel products in specific sectors is seemingly good and fabricators, in general, have good order books for the near future. This does not mean that the complete value chain has recovered to pre-COVID volumes and margins but the outlook for continued fabrication work for the next year remains positive.
This is noticeable in the fact that the first five months of 2022 saw a 5% increase in local production compared to the same period in 2021. This period also saw growth of 13% in exports compared to the same period last year. The year leading up to May 2022 saw an increase in apparent local consumption of 3% if compared to the year leading up to May 2021.
ON THE WAY UP?
Once again, it looks as if we are ready to make that final manoeuvre towards prosperity and growth but with some interesting movements in the Steel Master Plan activities and the other positives mentioned earlier, we can remain optimistic.
Besides a sobering dose of statistics, we also bring you an issue with some positives that we see on our continent and a snippet on local product development. We include interesting technical articles on potential stainless steel grade alternatives for the high nickel austenitics and we discuss the role that nickel plays in stainless steel.
Enjoy the read!