Finished steel demand in Latin America grew 2% over the first five months of 2015, triggered by an increase in imports, according to Alacero, the Latin American Steel Association.

Imports, claims Alacero, already satisfy 34% of regional consumption and with regional production of both crude and finished steel decreasing – down 2% when compared with the January to May 2014 period – the regional trade balance continues to deteriorate.

During the first five months of 2015 the deficit in tonnes increased 17% versus the same period last year.

With weak demand converging with sustained import growth, the overall scenario for the Latin American region is unfavourable. However, slow-growing regional and global markets are hampering exports from the region.

Between January and May 2015, Latin America produced 22.9Mt of finished steel, 2% lower than in the same period in 2014. Brazil ranked first (10.1Mt) accounting for 44% of regional output. Mexico was second (7.3Mt) taking a 32% share of output.

Peru increased its annual finished steel production by 10% with Columbia and Ecuador a close second at 8% apiece. In Argentina, production fell by 11%.

In terms of finished steel consumption for the period, the largest increases in absolute and percentage terms were recorded in Mexico (up 11%) Peru (up 12%) and Chile (up 9%). Consumption in Brazil was down 8% when compared to the same period last year and Argentina was down 7%.

Latin America and the Caribbean produced 26.8Mt of crude steel, down 2% on the same period in 2014. Brazil accounted for 53% of regional production (14.3Mt) up 2% year-on-year, Alacero claims.

In terms of trade balance, the Latin America region imported 10.2Mt of finished steel during the first five months of 2015, up 11% when compared to 2014. Imports currently represent 34% of regional finished steel consumption, causing disincentives for local industry, trade friction and employment uncertainty.

During the first five months of the year, the region recorded a deficit of 6.9Mt of finished steel, 17% deeper than last year (5.9Mt). In fact, only Brazil showed a trade surplus (28Mt) while the largest deficit was recorded by Mexico (down 2.9Mt).

Deficits were also recorded in Columbia (down 852kt); Chile (down 749kt); and Peru (down 724kt).

Looking ahead to June 2015 figures, crude steel production reached 5.5Mt, down 1% on May and up 4% on June 2014 figures.

Finished steel production in June closed at 4.6Mt, down 1% when compared with May and roughly in line with June 2014 figures.

Crude steel production during the first semester of 2015 was 32.3Mt, a 1% year-on-year drop. Finished steel production (27.4Mt) was down 2% when compared with January to June 2014.