TOKYO : Crude steel output in Japan, the world’s third-biggest producer, fell 7.4 per cent in 2022 from the previous year due to a slow recovery in automobile production and weaker export demand amid a slowdown in the global economy.

Output dropped for the first time in two years to 89.23 million tonnes, figures from the Japan Iron and Steel Federation showed on Monday.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp fared better than most car makers in managing supply chains, but it fell victim to the prolonged chip shortage last year, cutting monthly production targets repeatedly.

“Domestic steel demand was hit by repeated delays in automobile production recovery, while overseas demand also weakened in the second half of the year due to high inflation and interest rate hikes in the United States and Europe,” a researcher at the federation said.

“Meanwhile, the Japanese steelmakers have been reducing the number of blast furnaces, which means it would be difficult for Japan’s steel output to bounce back to 100 million tonnes level from the supply capacity point of view even if demand picks up,” he said.

Steel production for the October to December quarter slid 11.5 per cent from a year earlier to 21.42 million tonnes.

Output, which is not seasonally-adjusted, fell 13.1 per cent in December from a year earlier to 6.9 million tonnes and decreased 3.8 per cent from November.

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