Already extremely tight merchant slab availability from Russia and Ukraine in recent months has transformed into absolute absence since Russia invaded Ukraine, paralysing CIS trade and leading to wide-ranging sanctions on Russia.
The absence of CIS material is driving up prices, as Turkish and European buyers, “desperate for the material,” are seeking alternatives to CIS supply. Some are finding replacement volumes in Asia, as Brazil continues to supply the US and regional market, but one lot was heard booked in the past week from Brazil. Two Asian lots were also booked, and more could be on the way, according to sources.
Two Italian producers booked Indonesian slab, a 30,000-tonne lot at $850/tonne cfr Italy, and a 60,000t lot at $900/t cfr later in the week. A Brazilian 50,000t lot was heard booked by a Turkish mill at around $900/t cfr, but could not be confirmed by press time.
Although enquiries for Brazilian slab are raining down, the country’s producers will not be able to satisfy the requirements, whatever the price, as they are tied in with US mills. They have been supplying these faithfully for the past five years, since the US Section 232 trade restrictions were introduced. Additionally, US flat product prices are also rebounding, and mills are keen to secure supply, driving up prices.
Traders tell Iran could replace some of the volumes in Turkey, but it will take some time. EU mills could also turn to Iran, as the Union mulls the removal of sanctions on hydrocarbons and other products to replace Russian supply.