Global crude stainless steel production in 2011 reached another all-time high total of 32.1 million tonnes according to official figures.
This is 3.3 percent more than the previous record, set in 2010. In the traditional stainless steel making regions, only the EU and South Korea exceeded the previous year's outturn.
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The United States, Japan and Taiwan all produced less than they had done one year earlier.
Chinese production, according to CISA figures, climbed by 11.9 percent, to 12.6 million tonnes. However, it is believed that much stainless steel, particularly 200-series material, is made by companies who are not CISA members. This material is, therefore, not included in widely quoted statistics. This under-reporting may have amounted to as much as 2.5 million tonnes in 2011, or an additional 20 percent. If Chinese unreported production continued at the same rate, the 2012 figure would be 36.8 million tonnes.
Stainless steel making in the EU was less than 1 percent higher in 2011, compared with the earlier year’s outturn. We forecast a bigger increase in 2012. It is unlikely that capacity reductions arising from consolidation in the European stainless steel sector will affect output in the immediate future.
Production fell in the US
Annual production in the United States fell in 2011. However, it remains approximately 28 percent higher than the 2009 figure, which represents the low point of the recent crisis. There have been signs of increased economic and industrial activity in the US and a modest rise is forecast for 2012.
Japanese output slipped by 5 percent in 2011, inevitably affected by the earthquake and tsunami in March. A modest recovery is predicted, boosted by reconstruction and safety schemes.
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Taiwan's producers have suffered most from the slowing growth in demand in the region. Last year's output was significantly down on the 2010 figure, however, an increase is foreseen for 2012.
Whilst output in all the established stainless steel producing countries of the West and the Far East continues to be significantly less than in the peak year of 2006, Chinese output - even the official figure - has grown by 138 percent since that time. A further, substantial hike of 10 percent is predicted for 2012.