Myanmar’s demand for construction steel is rising slowly, in line with public and private construction activity. As steel production is limited in the country, curtailments on imports have affected steel consumption, Kallanish understands from a recent South East Asia Iron & Steel Institute conference in Vietnam.

Public infrastructure projects, including roads and bridges, are ongoing. The Ministry of Construction and the Ministry of Electric & Power are actively buying steel, including rebar, for such projects. Most stockists are active in supply tenders to these ministries. Import licences can easily be obtained from the Ministry of Commerce for such public projects.

The local private construction sector recovered in 2022 and 2023. Large real estate developers are most active in Yangon private residential housing, particularly as urbanisation is occurring rapidly. Foreign investment provides foreign currency through exports and capital inflows, and local banks are also operating well, Kay Thi Lwin, chairman of the Myanmar Iron And Steel Association, said at the event.

Despite this, Myanmar faces key challenges, he noted. These include import restrictions on steel, licensing, the depreciation of the Myanmar kyat against the dollar, electricity shortages and higher fuel costs, and domestic labour shortages resulting from emigration.

The country’s steel consumption was estimated at 1.2 million tonnes in 2023, of which around 650,000t was imported. “Steel consumption dropped after the political turmoil in 2021,” Kay noted. Restrictions have seen imports plunge since 2021. The import policy for steel will continue, he said. The estimated import quota volume set aside for steel is 900,000t. The Myanmar government is supposed to approve $16 billion of imports in the 2024 financial year. 

China, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are the main steel exporters, with China accounting for 50% of the overall import market. Malaysia supplies mostly long products and accounts for 20% of the market. Thailand and Vietnam both supply mostly flat products with 20% and 10% shares respectively.

The drop in imports has been offset by domestic rebar. Small induction furnaces in Myaung Takar in northern Yangon and industrial zones in Mandalay are producing around 550,000 t/year of rebar, angles and channels. Steel imports peaked at an estimated 2.2mt in 2020.

Kay identified three steel mills which are active in the country. Myingyan steel mill and Pin Pet steel mills are planning to resume production in 2024. There are also two active colour-coating operations in the country.