Global stainless steel production declined to about 50.7 million tonnes in 2020, down nearly 3 percent from the same period last year. This reduction is lower than originally expected at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, this is the first decline in global production after four years of consistent growth. In the major stainless steel producing countries, only China and Indonesia overcame the negative trend. The supply of stainless steel in these countries increased by about 2.5 percent and 15.5 percent, respectively, compared to the figures for 2019.
Last year, China's stainless steel production hit a record 30.1 million tonnes. This was due to the country's rapid economic recovery following the coronavirus-induced recession and the ability of national authorities to contain any increase in Covid-19 cases.
The pandemic has only slightly affected production in Indonesia. Production continued to grow as a result of increased production capacity and increased demand from export markets.
In many stainless steel producing countries, production is only now approaching pre-pandemic levels. The growth in production in the fourth quarter could not compensate for the loss in supply caused by the lockdown.
Manufacturing in the US and Japan fell more than 18 percent last year. Factories in Europe are doing slightly better - 7 percent. The recovery of stainless steel production in these three areas has been gradual. However, the surge in demand leads to a shortage of material.
According to forecasts, in 2021 the world production of stainless steel will grow to 54 million tons. Economic activity is expected to improve and stainless steel capacity will gradually increase this year. This is especially the case in Indonesia, where production is projected to remain higher than in many more developed countries. However, market confidence is likely to increase with the introduction of vaccinations in developed countries.