Appalled at the rising tide of aluminium scrap imports and its bizarre applications, the domestic aluminium producers are working in collaboration with planning think-tank Niti Aayog and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) to evolve standards for scrap usage.
Imports of aluminium scrap into India are growing unabated, helped by a benign duty of 2.5 per cent and fuelled by US-China trade tensions. With European Union (EU) clamping stern norms and China tightening its scrap imports rules, more material is getting diverted to the Indian markets.
“Scrap imports in this fiscal have moved up eight per cent during the June quarter. While the hike in volumes of inbound scrap shipments worries us, we are more concerned about its usage. More scrap is entering into electric wires and kitchen utensils apart from their uptake by alloy ingot makers and this is a disturbing trend. To check its unwanted applications, we are engaging Niti Aayog and BIS to frame standards for scrap”, an industry source said.
It may be worth noting that at the end of March 2019, India had already supplanted China as the world's biggest scrap importer. Between January and March 2019, China's aluminium scrap imports tanked 32 per cent while India's rose 19 per cent.
India’s scrap aluminium imports have been on an upward trajectory because of rising demand for secondary aluminium alloy used in automobile and housing parts. On the contrary, China’s inbound scrap shipments have been on a downtrend after the government there has enforced curbs to contain rising emissions.
It makes sense for India's secondary producers to import aluminium scrap since scrap remelting uses less than 10 per cent of the energy expended typically on an aluminium smelter. Since the secondary aluminium makers were operating on tiny margins, they lacked capital to expand their capacities. The secondary makers aver that scrap imports is a global phenomenon with top producers like China importing it in significant volumes.
But the primary producers quibble about the unchecked growth in scrap imports. According to them, scrap imports moved ahead since the duty was kept at only 2.5 per cent. Ahead of the Budget for 2019-20, the Aluminium Association of India (AAI), the voice of primary aluminium producers- Hindalco Industries, Vedanta and state run National Aluminium Company (Nalco) had called for a four-fold hike in duty on scraps to 10 per cent.
The wrangle over duties started with US imposing 10 per cent levy on imports of steel and aluminium. China retaliated by levying 25 per cent tax on scrap imports from US. With the European Union (EU) enforcing stern curbs on scrap imports, India has turned out to be the favoured hunting ground for scraps. China’s stricter norms on metal scrap and waste imports have also magnified fears of the primary aluminium producers. By 2020, China is looking at zero scrap imports.