Steel prod'n lags despite working at full capacity: Prasad

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New Delhi, Oct 24 (UNI) The Government today admitted there was a slowdown in the steel sector with production falling from 12.8 per cent in 2006-07 to 5.2 per cent in 2007-08, according to provisional data, despite steel plants operating at maximum capacity.

Stating this in a written reply, Minister of state for Steel Jitin Prasada told the Rajya Sabha that the slower percentage growth in steel production could be attributed to relatively higher base in the preceding years as currently most of the integrated steel plants were operating at their full installed capacities.

"Moreover, major steel companies are undergoing capacity expansion projects," he told the House during Question Hour.

At the same time, India had become a net importer of steel in 2007-08, and the trend was expected to continue. Steel imports had provisionally gone up to 6.92 million tonnes in 2007-08 from 4.31 million tonnes in 2005-06, he said.

To a related question, the Minister assured that various administrative as well as fiscal steps to stabilise price and supply of steel in the domestic market such as cut in customs duty on alloy, seconds and on nickel, and raising import duty on non-alloy steel and modification on CVED on TMT bars and rounds are being taken.

Regarding anticipated rise in demand, Mr Prasada said the expansion of Bokaro and Vizag steel plants are expected to significantly meet this demand. In addition, SAIL and Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd have undertaken modernisation and expansion in their plants to increase their production of hot metal and liquid steel, he told another questioner.

Comparing the country's steel production with that of China, Mr Prasada said "leading domestic steel producers, both in the public and private sectors, have announced plans to expand their existing capacities through both greenfield and brownfield ventures." Going by these estimates, the crude steel production is likely to reach at about 124 million tonnes by 2012.

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