The refractory and steel sectors need to work closely with each other to reduce dependence on imports and cut production costs, a top official of the Indian Refractory Makers Association (IRMA) said.
If India wants to achieve its ambitious target of 300 million tonne of steel production by 2030, the only way forward is synergy between the two sectors, said Sameer Nagpal, Head, Advocacy of IRMA.
Though the Indian refractory industry was minuscule compared to its steel counterpart, it is critical in the production of the metal, he said, adding, the steel sector consumes about 65 to 70 per cent of refractories.
“Unless the issues related to the refractory industry are addressed, the government’s steel production target might get hampered,” Nagpal, who is also the CEO (Refractory Business) of the Dalmia Bharat Group, told PTI on Sunday.
At present, the refractory sector is largely dependent on China for raw-material procurement, much like the steel industry that imports around 40 per cent of low-cost finished products from that country.
Nagpal, however, said following the implementation of new environmental rules in China, the inflow of raw materials has been disrupted, affecting the refractory companies.
Batting for zero per cent duty on raw materials, he said domestic refractory companies are on expansion mode through the inorganic route, and the industry is expected to garner an investment of USD 100-150 million, mainly in the eastern part of the country in the next three to five years.
The IRMA functionary said most of the acquisitions are likely to be in Europe, which will also help in latest technology transfers.
Nagpal said that India can become a refractory hub if the right steps in favour of the sector are initiated, such as making it a part of the Steel Research and Technology Mission of India (SRTMI), which has already attracted an initial corpus of Rs 200 crore.
He also said that a proposal has been mooted to set up a refractory centre of excellence.
On Dalmia Bharat Group’s expansion plans for the refractory business, Nagpal said it is eyeing overseas acquisitions, too, particularly in Europe and Egypt.
“Our negotiations are underway with three companies in Europe and Egypt. At least one of them will be finalised by the next quarter,” he said.
India’s current refractory capacity stands at 1.5 million tonne per annum.