This year may break the downward trend of reduced consumption in the South African stainless steel industry, says South African Stainless Steel Development Association (Sassda) director John Tarboton.
He notes that stainless steel consumption dropped by about 5.6% in 2017, and that the industry has suffered about a 28% decrease in consumption since 2014.
However, he highlighted that according to Sassda's expectations index released last year, the sentiment improved in the last few months of 2017 to sit around 50 index points.
"In January, that increased to 65 index points and, in February, it was sitting at around 71," Tarboton commented.
This, he elaborated, is leading to a growing number of quotations and enquiries within the industry. However, these are yet to translate into actual order quantities for the industry.
"The order quantities for the first two months of this year are lower than what it was for the last few months of 2017. The confidence and optimism in the industry is yet to translate into increased order levels," Tarboton warned.
The South African automotive sector accounts for about 28% of the local stainless steel consumption, with industrial consuming 18%, transportation 16%, mining about 15%, manufacturing about 13% and rail making up the remaining 10% of consumption.
Sassda, which aims to promote sustainable growth and development in the industry, has about 382 members (mainly companies) in South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Kenya.