UK steel recovery stuttering due to ‘dumping’ of cheap imports into Europe

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The UK steel industry’s recovery is “stuttering” due to the dumping of cheap steel into Europe, an industry body has warned.

Output of steel in the UK was virtually unchanged at 11.9 million tonnes in 2014, after a 24 per cent increase in 2013, manufacturing organisation EEF said.

Last year saw just 0.2 per cent growth, according to the figures from EEF’s UK Steel division. Overall output in the UK is still 19 per cent below pre-recession levels.

The main cause of the “disappointing” result has been imports, the group said. Imports accounted for 60 per cent of the European market last year, compared with 56 per cent a year earlier.

Ian Rodgers, director of UK Steel, said steel demand was estimated to be 12 per cent higher in 2014.

However, several factors have meant foreign producers have been the main beneficiaries, he said.

“The progressive rise in the value of sterling, the improved demand in the UK compared with the stagnating eurozone economies and the sharp slowdown in Chinese growth all combined to make our market a magnet for overseas steel companies with excess capacity on their hands,” he said.

Mr Rodgers urged the European Commission to act on unfairly-traded steel imports, with support from the British government.

The Company of Cutlers said it backed efforts to ensure UK steel companies are working in a competitive environment.

Sheffield’s Master Cutler David Grey said: “A competitive steel industry is a vital component of UK manufacturing.

“With regard to dumping, we deplore any such activity, as this distorts the proper operation of markets and as this damages UK business, it should be tackled vigorously.”

The impact of energy costs on producers and manufacturers should be tackled “with even greater urgency”, he added.