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Turkish steel in the black but EU rules rankle

Turkish crude steel output rose 25% year on year to 3.2 million tonnes in January Shutterstock
Turkish crude steel output rose 25% year on year to 3.2 million tonnes in January
  • Industry bounces back from poor 2023
  • Turkey up to seventh in global ranking
  • Race to comply with EU emissions rules

Turkey’s steel industry has rebounded strongly from a weak 2023, despite facing new emissions standards and competition for important markets. 

Crude steel output rose 25 percent year on year to 3.2 million tonnes in January, with domestic consumption of finished steel reaching 3.5 million tonnes, a 20 percent increase. 

Exports were also up, increasing 23 percent to 894,000 tonnes and generating earnings of $662 million, data issued by the Türkiye Çelik Üreticileri Derneği (TÇÜD, Turkish Steel Producers’ Association) at the end of February showed.

The rise was a turnaround from a fall of 4 percent in production last year to 34 million tonnes and a previous drop of 13 percent in 2022, with exports in 2023 down 31 percent.

This rebound meant Turkey moved to seventh on the ranking of global crude steel producers in January, overtaking Germany as Europe’s second largest producer behind Russia, the World Steel Association said. 

However, despite being a leading regional producer, Turkey is at times battling to compete in the region’s leading markets. 

It has had to cope with cheap and subsidised imports from Asia and limited access to the European Union, with exports falling from a high of 7.5 million tonnes a decade ago to just 2.5 million, the secretary general of the TÇÜD, Dr Veysel Yayan, told AGBI.

“The EU follows a quota system that left Turkey out, it ignores that Turkey is a country that they have a free trade agreement with, while it makes deals with Far East countries such as China and Vietnam,” he said.

“The Turkish economy needs the EU and the EU economy needs Turkey.”

To boost its position in Europe and potentially give it an advantage over its Asian rivals, the Turkish steel industry is moving towards lower carbon emissions.

These are in line with EU regulations that will be phased in from 2026 and which will limit access to the bloc’s market if not complied with. 

In January, Turkey’s leading steel producer, Erdemir, announced plans for a $3.2 billion investment in green technology, targeting a 25 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 and with the aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Under the plan, Erdemir will scale back using coal as a fuel source, shifting to biomass and gas, while also installing new electric arc furnaces to reduce emissions still furthrt. 

Turkish steel producers were fully committed to complying with the EU’s green energy targets, Dr Yayan said, but the industry was hoping that the state would provide legislative and fiscal support.

“Our government should be providing similar incentives to those EU countries give to their steel producers for this transformation. We are in need of a transition period. In our country emission laws have not come into effect yet,” he said.

Despite this, Dr Yayan believes Turkey’s steel industry can step up the adoption of green technology, which in turn will open doors to Europe and beyond.

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