New Delhi: The government has asked steelmakers to make efforts to keep prices below Rs 40,000 per tonne as it cannot permit them to "exploit the country".
"The best range for domestic price is between 35-40 (Rs 35,000 per tonne to Rs 40,000 per tonne). If it goes beyond 40 (Rs 40,000), then yes, we will be checking. As the steel ministry, we cannot allow Indian steelmakers to exploit the country," Steel Secretary Aruna Sharma said in an interview.
"So, that is the balance we have to constantly strike.
That is very important," she asserted.
The government has recently taken steps to ringfence the steel industry from the onslaught of cheaper imports, which stirred up a hornet's nest.
Over the last 2-3 months, the steel prices have gone up by around Rs 6,000-6,500 per tonne due to various factors, including a rise in prices of raw materials such as iron ore and coal, said an analyst.
Internationally too, the steel prices have hardened nearly $150 per tonne, the analyst said, adding that at this level, there is room for price hike in future.
"About Rs 40,000 per tonne is the average price of hot rolled coil (which is the base price indicator product)," he added.
Defending the protectionist measures "as the right thing to do", the steel secretary maintained that the government is not against imports.
"What we say is you can't use India as a dumping ground.
That's all. You can't do at a throwaway price," Sharma warned.
Recently, India slapped the countervailing duty for five years on certain Chinese flat steel products to guard domestic players against imports that are subsidised by the exporting nation.
India will achieve more than 50 per cent of its 300 million tonne steel production target by 2018-19, says Union Steel Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh.
The minister has also assured stakeholders that there will not be any shortage of raw materials for steel-making.
"(As of now), I can't say what would be the production this year, but in 2018-19, the domestic crude steel production will be 170 million tonnes (mt)," he said.
Under the National Steel Policy (NSP), the government has set a production target of 300 mt, which is to be achieved by 2030-31. The NSP also aims at more than doubling the per capita steel consumption to 158 kg by 2030-31, from 61 kg at present.
The minister asked the industry to make full use of the resources available in the country. India has surplus power and the iron ore reserves will last for at least next 30 years, he pointed out.