EU steel demand falls 12% in the first quarter: Eurofer

FILE PHOTO: Steel rolls are pictured at the plant of German steel company Salzgitter AG in Salzgitter, Germany March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Steel consumption in the European Union slid by 12% year-on-year in the first quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened an already weak picture, industry group Eurofer said on Wednesday.

The coronavirus crisis is likely to show a bigger impact in the second quarter because lockdown measures only kicked off in the last month of the quarter, a statement said.

In June, the European Steel Association (Eurofer) estimated that steel demand had tumbled by around 50% since March as industries such as automakers shut factories.

“The coronavirus pandemic has cut the legs out from under the European steel industry, causing severe damage to the whole sector and its value chains”, said Eurofer Director General Axel Eggert.

The 12% drop in apparent steel consumption in the 28 members of the EU in the first three months of the year to 37.6 million tonnes was only slightly more than the 10.8% decline in the final quarter of last year. It included the United Kingdon which left the bloc at the end of January.

Apparent steel consumption measures output of steel producers plus net imports minus net exports.

The European steel sector was already facing difficult conditions last year due to a downturn in the bloc’s manufacturing sector, trade tensions and uncertainty over Britain’s departure from the EU.

In June, Eurofer criticised the EU for only making modest changes to its measures to protect the steel sector, rejecting calls from the industry to cut import quotas to head off a potential glut of inflows.

On Wednesday, Eurofer said imports from third countries fell by 20% in the first quarter after a drop of 24% in the final three months of 2019.

Reporting by Eric Onstad; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise