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New steel minister aims to cut down on imports, increase consumption.

Date: 15-07-2016
Subject: New steel minister aims to cut down on imports, increase consumption
The new steel minister, Chaudhary Birender Singh, has set his priorities — cutting down imports of steel, increasing exports and enhancing domestic consumption. Improving efficiency of the sector would also be a focus area.

“Steel is an important sector as it contributes 2% of the GDP. My focus would be to ensure that our products are the best in the world, our imports are cut to a size where we may be able to save a lot of forex and our exports become competitive,” Singh told FE in his first interview after assuming charge on July 6.

Though the situation has somewhat improved in recent times after repeated interventions from the government, the domestic steel industry has been passing through a bad phase for more than a couple of years owing to various issues, including galloping imports from China, Japan and Korea.

Exports, on the other hand, were also on the wane in sync with the global trend. Domestic anaemic demand and subdued prices are also to be blamed.

Singh said his ministry would always put across its priority on cutting enhancing exports and down imports, adding that he was “not here (as a minister) to oversee the performance of the PSUs, but to do the policy making”.

“Exports can be increased only when we are more competitive than the rest of the world. I want to ensure that happens,” the minister said.

Global exports of steel fell by 4.15% last year. Not isolated from the declined trend of exports globally, the domestic industry has also affected as a result, he said.

Though the minister did not spell out the probable steps he would like to take to rein in imports, sources said, the ministry might extend the minimum import price (MIP) on steel for another six months after the first term ends on August 6.

The ministry has taken a lot of other initiatives to curtail imports, including anti-dumping duty on some products. India remained a net importer of steel for the previous two financial years even
as it was the third largest producer of steel globally after China and Japan.

Assuming charge, Singh had said he would use his “common sense” to ensure “result-oriented” performance of the sector now passing through a “stressful” phase and would be working vigorously for the promotion of the steel industry and to protect the interests of the industry to make it progressive and globally competitive.

The minister also wants to enhance domestic consumption of steel, which is nearly one-fourth of the global average of 234 kg, with special emphasis on rural areas where the per capita consumption is just 12 kg.

Source : financialexpress.com

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