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TMC, CPI(M) oppose sale of PSUs

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NEW DELHI: TMC and CPI(M) today opposed the sale of India's first pharma company Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Ltd and Alloy Steel Ltd, saying it will lead to job losses.

Amid slogan shouting by Congress over the issue of conduct of the Goa Governor in inviting BJP to form government after reportedly holding consultations with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) raised the issue of proposed sale of BCPL while Ritabrata Banerjee (CPI-M) opposed sale of Alloy Steel.

Roy said BCPL was set up in April 1901 and was the only unit to manufacture anti-venom serum. It made a profit of Rs 1 crore last year and any strategic sale will lead to loss of jobs of thousands of workers. He asked government to review its decision.

Banerjee raised the issue of planned outright sale of state-owned SAIL's three special steel units, including Alloy Steel Plant.

He sought stoppage of the strategic disinvestment of Alloy Steel saying it would lead to job losses and add to the industrial distress in Durgapur where several industrial units have closed down.

Source: economictimes.indiatimes.com

ASSOCHAM urges for setting up road transport regulatory authority

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Apex industry body ASSOCHAM has mooted a proposal to the Union Government to constitute an appropriate authority either at the Central or state level to fix the ceiling on road freight rates and breaking local monopolies.

Transporters charge exorbitant rates for movement of iron ore and other raw materials from mines and ports to steel plants, besides they also prevent free competition through their dominating presence in local areas, said ASSOCHAM highlighting the double whammy being faced by the domestic steel sector.

ASSOCHAM also submitted various suggestions to the Union Steel Ministry to bring back India's steel sector on growth trajectory.

There is an urgent need to withdraw import duty of five per cent imposed upon metallurgical coke and coking coal to restore competitiveness of the domestic steel industry, ASSOCHAM highlighted in a paper submitted to the Union Steel Ministry highlighting various issues that are restricting growth of the sector.

It also urged the Steel Ministry to bring down rate of royalty on iron ore to reduce the cost of raw materials for steel plants.

About 15 per cent royalty rate on iron ore together with district mineral foundation (DMF) at 30 per cent translates into royalty burden on end user of 19.5 per cent of iron ore cost, it noted.

The apex chamber requested to reduce the DMF rate for new mines from 10 per cent for captive consumption of iron ore.

Considering that higher transport costs result in higher costs of production of steel in India, there is an urgent need to bring down freight tariff rates by up to 25 per cent across all raw material and steel products to gain competitive edge.

It is also imperative to prevent import of cheap steel in India through a combination of minimum import price (MIP) and import duties/safeguard duties on a sustained basis.

ASSOCHAM has also suggested that inclusion of pig iron, sponge iron and billets in the list of products covered under MIP since protection for upstream primary reduction of iron is equally vital.

Further, banks should extend working capital loans to steel companies on a priority basis, especially those which have not defaulted on interest payment, while structural problems relating to high debts of various steel companies would take time to resolve.

There is also a need to create a special funding mechanism for providing capital for brown-field expansion of capacities at the existing steel mills, more so as commercial viability of brown field expansion of steel plants is significantly higher than greenfield plants.

Sharing certain budget proposals, ASSOCHAM has reiterated its demand to accord strategic industry status to steel sector. Besides it also suggested to bring import duty on coking coal and metallurgical coke down to zero.

A comprehensive package for steel sector should be unveiled encompassing special financing arm for providing capital for expansion of capacities, easy extension of working capital loans, long-term policy on freight tariffs and augmenting transportation infrastructure capacity to meet needs of steel production.

Besides it should also include total revamp of process for grant of statutory approvals for mines and steel plants, long-term policy to prevent cheap imports of steel products and security of raw materials.

Source: business-standard.com

Can India be a Net Exporter of Steel?

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Can India become a net exporter of steel on perpetual basis? Pat came the reply from a senior steel ministry official “Yes, it obviously can. But, it will take some time and in steel parlance, the word 'sometime' means at least 10 years.”

Not so long ago in 2013-14, India was indeed a net exporter of steel, but in the following two years, imports far exceeded its exports. However, with the exception of 2015-16, India’s domestic consumption grew much lower than the rate of increase in production in previous two years.

Now, looking at the country’s steel scenario, which is unlikely to alter much in the coming months, India’s imports fell by 37% while exports were up by over 35% during April-September period of current fiscal. India remained a net steel importer during the period as well. However, consumption growth was just 2.5% compared with a whopping 9% rise in production.

While India’s steel consumption growth has been anemic for past few years, growth in installed capacity has been on the rise. Further, from the present 118 MTPA capacity, India aspires to raise the capacity by 154% to 300 MTPA by 2030. Considering that the target gets achieved, India’s per capita consumption from around 63 Kg now will also have to grow in sync if the balance is to be maintained.

Higher growth in consumption could be expected from government’s push on infrastructure and housing sectors, but whether it would match the production growth rate would remain to be seen.

If it doesn’t, then export would remain the only option and for that, it must not only have to produce better quality products at a competitive rate, but also has to develop a strong market abroad and maintain the market at any cost. The government also has to incentivse exports and rein in imports at the same time.

India’s import and exports (MT):

Year Export Import
2015-16 4.08 11.71
2014-15 5.59 9.32
2013-14 5.98 5.34

(Source: Joint Plant Committee)

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