As the UK continues to relax COVID restrictions and further transitions away from the EU, supply chain problems and a shortage of skilled labour are proving to be testing for both the public and commercial world, particularly with haulage and freight where there is a 150,000 shortfall in UK-based lorry drivers. This is affecting everything that needs hauling, including our sector’s secondary raw materials. Coupled with cross-border checking issues at some UK ports, this is affecting the ready availability of containers for the shipment of various metal streams and has caused shortages in the delivery of fuel, exacerbating the situation further. Following Army tanker driver deployments, however, recent days have seen an easing of some of the worst fuel shortages at filling stations, along with a return to a more readily available supply of containers.
Domestic steel mills largely maintained their furnace feed buying prices throughout August and September, helped by strong demand from export destinations. Although prices had seemingly decreased in Turkey, they remained buoyant in other available worldwide destinations. At the time of writing, however, there are signs of a capitulation in the two-month stand-off between exporters and largest buyer Turkey, as exporters are pursued for the material needed by consumers for November shipment. Although some cargoes have been negotiated at slightly higher prices in recent days, the expectation is for higher rather than lower levels as the demand for material tracks renewed bullish market sentiment.
The volumes of available UK yard material eased in the late summer months as the normal seasonal slowdown took effect, but volumes are seemingly on the rise again with yards returning to more normal flows. Significant concern, however, continues to surround the UK government’s plans to implement “taxed fuel” across many currently exempt commercial sectors, including ours. This first-tier tax will almost certainly double most operators’ fuel costs and add to the concerns expressed by many regarding the impact of rising inflation.