One of the unpredictable consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic is an ongoing shortage of steel profiles. South Africa’s Arcelor Mittal closed furnaces at its Van der Bijl and Newcastle plants. The decision to stop production at the continuous smelter in Saldanha Bay was made for financial reasons shortly before the Covid crisis began. As steel fabricators like Barpro started up after the initial lockdown, existing stocks of steel profiles were depleted, and Arcelor Mittal’s furnaces restarted late. Earlier importation of required steel profiles could have alleviated the supply problem, but with an effective 18% duty, these were slow to pick up.
Now, as of early December, it appears that the steel profile shortage has become global. Chinese mills are producing but shipping delays and increased global demand will see increased prices and even shortages continuing locally for some months.
Barpro will do its best to maintain repairs and maintenance lead times and will keep profiles in stock where these are available at reasonable prices. However, customers must understand that delays may be unavoidable and that prices could increase at short notice. Arcelor Mittal has promised to restart another furnace and to make up some of the backlogs during the December holidays, but we aren’t holding our collective breaths that the situation will have changed much by January.