The writing was on the wall for the developed economies, but now the lettering is getting bolder. In the first six months of this year, India has moved up two places to the third position on the list of top steel producing countries; only China and Japan are ahead.
While every other country in the pecking order has witnessed a steep decline in production, India and China are the only two countries to have registered growth. India's steel production grew by 1.3 per cent to 27.55 million tonnes (mt); China, with a very high base, startled even experts with a growth of 1.2 per cent to 266.58 mt.
The United States led the diving board with a 50 per cent decline, with the likes of Germany, South Korea and Brazil populating the list.
"I have always maintained that we would continue to grow despite the global recession because the latent demand for steel in the domestic market is huge," said SK Roongta, chairman, Steel Authority of India Ltd — the country's largest steel producer. "Our per capita consumption for steel is still one of the lowest in the world and the potential is so huge that at times our production is not able to match up to the demand."
But will India manage to hold on to the fairytale growth when everybody else is downing shutters? Indications are, yes: SAIL's production was up 3.7 per cent in April-June ’09; JSW was up 45 per cent and Tata Steel 20 per cent.
"The demand for steel across sectors is on the way up and the worst clearly seems to be over," said Sajjan Jindal, vice chairman, JSW Steel. JSW’s Indian plants are working full time, but US operations are badly hit.