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What Fifty Years of Steel Production Looks Like

  While the current state of steel production and sales is constantly in flux, we do see steel prices slowly stabilizing. Turbulence in places where steel is both manufactured and also in demand for building, can have significant effects on prices that ripple across the world. That turbulence could be financial, the aftermath of a natural disaster, or economic instability.  


When studying the last fifty years or so of steel production around the world, we see various countries enter the market and either drive massive quantities of production or maintain a small but reliable production. It’s interesting to note that, in 1974, Europe was the largest producer of steel. That has, of course, since changed, with China overtaking the rest of the world in production around 2009.

A timeline of steel production around the world, placed next to a timeline of world events, gives an interesting picture, sure, but it also helps economists determine what may happen next in the steel trade. For instance, the decade between 1974 and 1984 saw a large decline in demand in the United States for steel. Until that point, the US and USSR had been nearly parallel in steel production, but as production slowed in the United States, the USSR became the world’s top crude steel producer. Again, Europe produced more steel overall during this period, but crude steel was the USSR’s specialty.  

The Early 90s

The next big change we see to the USSR’s production levels is in the early 1990s, after the fall of communism. The Soviet Union was dissolved, and Russia could no longer claim the steel production of other Post-Soviet states. Interestingly, during that time is when China began to grow their steel production and exportation in earnest. In 1993, China overtook the United States, and then overtook Japan in 1996.  

China Grows Despite Crisis

China yet again was able to take advantage of a global catastrophe to increase their steel output. In 2009, most of the world plunged into economic crisis. During that time, US steel production dropped 35%, European dropped 27%, and Japan dropped 26%. China, however, increased their production by 13%.

China’s production continued to grow exponentially in the following years. By 2017, they eclipsed the rest of the world’s steel production with almost 871 million tons. The rest of the steel producing countries combined only put out 865 million tons. Even after the pandemic hit in 2020, China maintained steady growth. While the United States slowed production by 17%, Japan by 16%, and Europe by 9%, China again increased by 5%.  

Slowing the Steel Production Rate

Many countries have scaled back steel production on purpose to avoid overproduction and to seek more eco-friendly solutions, such as recycling steel. Because steel can be reused again and again without compromising integrity and strength, recycled steel is just as valuable as newly produced steel.

During times of high demand, such as now, businesses can save money on steel purchases by purchasing surplus steel from reputable sources. Texas Iron and Metal has been one of those reputable sources for more than eighty years. When you need steel for your next project, just reach out and let us know what you’re looking for. If we don’t have it, we’ll get it for you.