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Japan's 2020 crude steel output drops 16.2% amid COVID-19 crisis

Crude steel output in Japan, the world's third-biggest producer, dropped 16.2% from the previous year in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic collapsed demand from industries such as automobiles and construction, forcing steelmakers to curb production.

Output, which is not seasonally adjusted, fell for a sixth straight year last year to 83.19 million tonnes, the Japan Iron and Steel Federation said last Friday.

Steel production for the October to December quarter slid 7.0% from a year earlier to 21.99 million tonnes.

Output in December fell 3.3% year on year to 7.53 million tonnes, the tenth straight monthly decline, though it rose 3.6% from November.

Japan's top two steelmakers, Nippon Steel Corp and JFE Steel, owned by JFE Holdings Inc, were forced to temporarily shut several blast furnaces in the April-July period last year to cope with lean demand caused by the pandemic. But some operations have resumed since September as demand from the auto industry begins to pick up.

Still, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) predicted last month that the nation's crude steel output will likely fall 2.5% year on year in the first three months of 2021 as the pandemic continues to weigh on construction and shipbuilding.