China pledges to ensure crude steel output falls as aims to cut carbon

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will ensure its crude steel output falls in 2021 and launch a nationwide investigation into the implementation of steel capacity cuts since 2016, industry regulators said on Thursday, as the country aims to meet goals to curb emissions.

FILE PHOTO: A man works at a production base of China Construction Steel Structure Corp Ltd (CSCEC Steel) in Meishan, Sichuan province, China September 3, 2019. Picture taken September 3, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

China, the world’s top steel producer, started a campaign to eliminate outdated and excess capacity in the ferrous sector since 2016.

Last year, the imports of steel products rose 64% and billets surged by nearly 500%, but the country’s steel output also hit record levels as industrial activity roared back to life following pandemic shutdowns.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Ministry of Industry Information Technology (MIIT) said in a statement they will jointly investigate excess steel capacity and the construction and production of steel smelting projects.

“Since 2016... the reduction of steel capacity has achieved significant results, but some deep-rooted contradictions have not been solved fundamentally,” the authorities said in a statement.

They also said they would promote high-quality development over quantity after some companies had “an impulse” to construct steel projects blindly, as industrial output recovers from the impact of the pandemic, that is undermining capacity cuts.

China says it had cut 150 million tonnes of capacity and 140 million tonnes low-grade steel in the last five years. However, its annual crude steel output has set a record for four straight years and hit 1.065 billion tonnes in 2020.

The inspections will include self-rectification by each local government, on-site checks and a summary report, Thursday’s statement said.

The authorities will focus on cutting crude steel output at outdated mills with poor environmental performance and ensure 2021 crude steel outputs fall from the previous year as China’s strives for long-term carbon neutrality.

China’s top steelmaking city Tangshan has already urged long-processing steel producers to cut output by 30%-50% this year, sending futures prices of rebar and hot rolled coil to over 5,000 yuan per tonne records.

Reporting by Min Zhang and Shivani Singh; additional reporting by Eric Onstad; editing by Barbara Lewis