By Yuka Obayashi
Japan's crude steel output is expected to come in around 35 million tonnes for the April-September period and below 80 million tonnes for the current financial year to end-March, the new head of a steel industry group said on Tuesday.
"It's my personal view, but I still expect Japan's crude steel output is likely to fall below 80 million tonnes for the current financial year," Japan Iron and Steel Federation's new chairman, Eiji Hashimoto, told a news conference.
He had given the same prediction in May as the president of Nippon Steel Corp, the world's third-biggest steelmaker.
Japan's crude steel output for the year to March 2020 was 98.43 million tonnes, down 4.3% from a year earlier.
Asked whether he expects another round of consolidation in the local steel industry to defy slumping demand amid the coronavirus pandemic, Hashimoto said that a merger is not the answer to survival.
"Each steelmaker first needs to do whatever it can do on its own to improve management through measures including cutting down surplus production capacity," he said.
Hashimoto, who became the chairman of the federation on Tuesday, also warned that the relative superiority of Chinese steel mills will increase after the pandemic as they are boosting output and improving technology.
"Our biggest threat is China," he said.
China's steel mills are cranking up output as demand recovers in the world's second-biggest economy following a lifting on curbs on movement and activity imposed to counter the epidemic while Japanese steelmakers have been forced to cut output to reflect weak demand.
(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Tom Hogue and Louise Heavens)