Subsidiaries of the country’s top two private sector steel producers — Tata Steel
and JSW Steel
— are ramping up capacity in tinplate with an increase in out-of-home consumption and implementation of quality control measures.
JSW Coated and JSW Vallabh Tinplate, the wholly owned subsidiaries of JSW Steel, are increasing capacity from 350,000 tonnes to 620,000 tonnes.
The Tinplate Company of India, a subsidiary of Tata Steel, will put up an additional capacity of 300,000 tonnes at an estimated capital expenditure of Rs 1,800 crore. At present, Tinplate Company has a capacity of 379,000 tonnes.
However, JSW’s additional capacity will go onstream by March 2022. Tinplate’s expansion — approved by the board in August-end — is expected to be completed in about three years.
Increased urbanisation is one of the reasons why companies
are raising their capacity. “Penetration of organised retail prompted us to ramp up capacity,” said JSW sources.
According to Ritabrata Ghosh, assistant vice-president of ICRA, previous growth in the industry was not so exciting even though spreads had been stable. “The industry has been growing at a CAGR of 5-6 per cent. But with institutionalising of retail, growth could be much higher,” he said.
The pandemic-induced trading up has further raised hopes of increased demand. Companies, however, are also betting big on the mandatory usage of prime grades of Bureau of Indian Standards-certified tinplate.
Sources indicated that the reason for Tata Steel’s expansion was, largely, based on expectations that there would be better control on the quality of tinplate being imported into the country. Tinplate’s growth plans are also aligned with the expansion plans of Tata Steel.
Effective July 17, the government has enforced Steel & Steel Products’ (Quality Control) Order, mandating the usage of prime grades of BIS-certified tinplate.
Tinplate, a packaging medium, is one of the highest value-adding downstream products in the flat steel segment.
About 30-35 per cent of the market demand is met by imports. “The balance is largely serviced by Tata Steel
and JSW Steel,” said Ghosh.
The data sourced from ICRA shows that imports of tinplate and tin free steel in FY20 stood at 250,000 tonnes. In FY21, it was lower at 180,000 tonnes as international prices were higher and out-of-home consumption was impacted.
“With the implementation of quality control, producers may get a pie of the imports,” pointed out Ghosh.
The implementation of quality control measures has, however, put metal container manufacturers in a spot as foreign suppliers are not being able to obtain certification due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“There is currently no procedure for virtual inspection and due to the ongoing Covid conditions, physical inspection is impacted,” said Sanjay Bhatia, president, Metal Container Manufacturers’ Association (MCMA).
“We have, therefore, requested that the notification be put on hold till March 31, 2022,” he added.
Domestic prices are currently lower than international prices. Even though it may not make commercial sense to import right now, Bhatia said the industry, on an ongoing basis, needs an alternate source of the material. “We don’t want to depend on one or two sources.”
User industries are also flagging concerns over rising prices even as they are looking to purchase locally made tinplate.
“In Amul, we prefer tinplate containers manufactured in India provided they are of good quality and at affordable prices. Domestic prices have been slightly lesser than the imported ones,” said R S Sodhi, managing director of Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation.
“However, we have seen a 62-63 per cent rise in domestic prices in the last five years, which is an area of concern because we cannot raise the food product prices at the same rate,” he said.
Amul uses tinplate containers largely for ghee, followed by baby food products, condensed milk, and beverages.
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