China's Hebei steel output climbs 7 pct in Dec

BEIJING Thu Jan 23, 2014 12:06am EST

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BEIJING Jan 23 (Reuters) - Crude steel output from China's top steelmaking province of Hebei rose 7.4 percent in December from the previous month, but the figure was 5.2 percent lower than 2012 as Beijing's anti-pollution drive starts to bite.

According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, Hebei produced 12.3 million tonnes of crude steel in the final month of 2013, amounting to 19.7 percent of the national total, up from 18.8 percent in November, but down from 25.2 percent for the whole of the previous year.

The province traditionally produces around a quarter of China's total steel output, but its share tailed off significantly in the last two months of 2013, largely as a result of a government campaign to tackle sources of air pollution in northern China.

Over the whole of the year, Hebei produced 188.5 million tonnes, amounting to 24.2 percent of the total.

Hebei's ill-regulated steel industry has been identified as one of the major sources of smog in Beijing and other large northern Chinese cities, and the campaign to cut capacity in the region runs the risk of shifting pollution to other regions, including Shanghai.

Jiangsu province, which neighbours Shanghai, saw its share of national steel output rise to 11.5 percent in December, compared to 10.4 percent for the whole of 2013. Its total output for the year rose 10.6 percent to 84.7 million tonnes.

Hebei plans to cut steel capacity by 15 million tonnes in 2014, and by 60 million tonnes by 2017. Its governor, Zhang Qingwei, warned local bureaucrats this week that they would be fired if another tonne of capacity is built on their patch.

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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