Budget 2018: On the back of increased exports and lower imports, rising prices have augured well for the country’s steel sector in recent times. The sector, however, expects relaxations on import duty on raw materials, crucial for production of the alloy. As finance minister Arun Jaitley prepares to unveil the Union Budget 2018-19 on February 1, steel secretary Aruna Sharma speaks to Surya Sarathi Ray on the sector’s Budget expectations and other issues. Edited excerpts:
What are your Budget expectations?
Whatever we don’t produce in India, but are vital elements we import for production of steel, there should be no import duty. So that takes care of ferro nickel, ferro molybdenum, ferro chromium, coking coal and scrap. We are deficit in steel scrap including for production of stainless steel. Our request is that the import duty on these should be brought down to zero so that input cost does not increase and as a result, steel prices do not increase. This will mean that the cost of infrastructure also gets stabilised. That is why it is.
But steel prices are on the rise now
This is because the price of iron ore has gone up now. It has gone up because of the recent Supreme Court judgment as a result of which some mines have closed down in Odisha. Due to this, there is a deficit of around 20 MT iron ore production. This has inflated the price of iron ore. NMDC and others have raised the price.
Will you take any action?
We will try to resolve the iron ore deficit issue. More and more mines should be opened up. There should not be any deficit of iron ore.
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Have you taken up the matter with the mines ministry?
We are together working on it. The mines ministry will auction more mines.
Are other problems over for the steel sector?
Steel sector is doing well now. Import has come down and exports are increasing. We are now net exporter of steel.
Do you plan to take more actions to curtail imports?
No. There are certain types of steel which we don’t produce. We have to import them. So, there will be some imports. There will be no policy change on steel imports at the moment.
What’s the latest on ArcelorMittal-Sail JV?
They have signed the term sheet. Other documents are being prepared.