Steel is a unique and vital material; touching almost every part of modern life; it is key to our overall infrastructure and is an essential part of our society. Most obviously, steel is in high-demand by the construction and building industry, but with almost half of the 1.6 billion tonnes of steel produced globally each year coming from China, UK-based firms just cannot compete.
This situation has been exacerbated by China’s slowing economic growth; trying to attract whatever foreign investment it can on the global markets, China has flooded the steel market with below-cost-price steel at a rate that the UK cannot match.
To counter the glut of foreign supply, the Engineering Employer’s Federation (EEF) has called for Britain to prioritise homemade steel when it comes to building large projects. As well as grant funding to support developing power plant infrastructure, energy efficiency and/or environmental protection measures, R&D, and training, the government is also offering a 25% stake in Tata Steel plant as part of any rescue deal.
While keeping good-quality British steel in production seems, on the face of it, essential, forcing UK companies to use homemade materials will have a serious knock-on effect further down the already-stretched supply chain. Avoiding expensive material overheads is essential to ensuring a decent profit margin so, with the price of materials already rising at an alarming rate; can the quality of British steel really outweigh its inflated price when compared to imported alternatives?