Pakistan Association of Large Steel Producers (PALSP) has urged the government to take all necessary measures to curb the production and sale of substandard steel in the country.
In a letter addressed to the Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Agha Hassan Baloch, and Federal Secretary, Ghulam M Memon, the PALSP Secretary Syed Wajid Bukhari called upon the government to strictly enforce the standards prescribed by the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA).
Expressing worries about the sale of substandard steel he said, “Due to the non-enforcement of PSQCA standards, around 40 to 50% of the country’s markets are flooded with sub-standard steel bars as the business of unchecked sub-quality product was thriving.”
“According to PALSP, a major chunk of substandard steel being produced here is used in our nation’s infrastructure as well as many housing projects. This is a worrying situation as this unchecked usage of substandard steel can create a national risk for the future generations, especially considering Pakistan is located on a seismic zone,” said Bukhari
PALSP secretary added that while the laws and standards were very clear, they were not being implemented. “According to a research study conducted by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of 2005, one of the major factors attributing to the collapse of buildings was the usage of substandard steel,” he recalled.
There are a number of genuine reasons that force buyers to opt for sub-standard steel. Optimus Capital Management Senior Research Analyst, Mehroz Khan said, “Domestic consumption of ungraded steel rebars came in practice this year on the back of a slump in steel scrap prices. A majority of the plants shut off during FY2022 as they were unable to meet their working capital needs due to the inflated prices and massive currency devaluation,” added Khan.
“Consumers, on the other hand, prefer ungraded low-quality steel rebars due to its low price, ignoring quality altogether,” he said.
“Not everyone prefers to buy PSQCA endorsed material because not everyone can afford it,” said Shamoon Bakir Ali, Chairman of the Karachi Iron and Steel Merchants Association (KISMA).
“Pakistan has a very low GDP, thus a low per capita income, resulting in the purchasing power of only low-quality material,” said Ali, adding that, “A poor man, who does not have enough funds or someone making a two or three Marla house of 80 square feet will not be able to afford tiling, let alone expensive steel.”
He added that, in rural areas, where a majority of the population resides, “families don’t even have money to install steel doors. In fact, over there, used steel bars procured from old demolished buildings are being used in large quantities – far from PSQCA certified material,” explained Ali.
“Substandard rebars are manufactured through a direct rolling process of re-rollable scrap, skipping the melting phase in which scrap is melted to form billets as per the international standards,” explained Khan, urging that, “The government should take remedial measures to address this issue and provide a level playing field for the domestic industry”.
The PSQCA Standard, PS-1879-2018 for steel reinforcement bars, clearly states that it is necessary to follow the complete procedure of melting, refinement, and rolling with complete temperature controls while manufacturing the rebars. It was also stated that re-rollable scrap and scrap ship plates should not be directly re-rolled into steel bars. But there are still manufacturers that are going against the standards set by PSQCA.
However, there are large numbers of mills producing low-quality and substandard steel bars by directly rolling plates made from the shipbreaking industry and have already sold almost half.
“Apart from being a direct violation of the PSQCA standard for rebar production, these bars are of inferior quality and cannot be exported because the material has been converted into bars without following the proper process,” lamented Bukhari.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2022.
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