Miller: Pig Iron Market Update

Written by Stephen Miller

The importation of basic pig iron has allowed EAF steelmakers to implement thin-slab casting technology to make drawing-quality flat-rolled sheet over the last 30 years. These pig iron imports have made it possible for these furnaces to use the available scrap supply—despite elevated alloy residual content—to make this product by adding it to the melts. By doing this, the steelmakers have successfully neutralized the effects of the copper and other alloys present in most obsolescent recycled ferrous scrap. Needless to say, this pig iron usage is a crucial element in this burgeoning industry.

Pig Iron Pricing

SMU is making it a point to cover the events and pricing in the pig iron markets.

We have spoken to two executives for producers in Brazil who export pig iron to the US. Both executives have told SMU recent sales prices for basic pig iron to US mills have increased lately.

The first source confirmed the FOB Brazil price established for shipment to the US was $415 per metric ton (MT). This price represented a $15/MT increase from previous sales. He mentioned the new asking price will be at least $420/MT FOB S. Brazil for loading in January.

If realized, the delivered price to New Orleans should be around $440-42/MT CFR. He went on to say, due to the onset of rainy season, there is approximately 130,000 MT of pig iron capacity on hold for their summer, which starts in December.

Our second source also agreed that pig iron prices are currently at $420 FOB Brazil at this point. The Brazilian producers are completely sold out for December shipment and have only January loadings available.


The logistics involved in the transportation of most pig iron from South Brazil are multi-model. Once the material is stowed onto a vessel in Brazil, the travel time to the US Gulf Coast is 17-20 days. If it goes to New Orleans, the cargo is discharged into awaiting barges, mid-river by floating cranes.

This takes another 3-5 days. From there the barges are floated upriver to several river terminals where the pig iron is discharged onto the dock and stored in their outdoor warehouses before being transferred to the mills via truck or railcar. This can take another 15-25 days. So, the whole trip from the docks in Brazil to the furnaces at US mills usually takes about 50 days, give or take.

Buyers’ Perspective

SMU spoke with a steel mill purchasing executive to see how  buyers see the market. This executive also said prices have risen lately.

“With the scrap prices increasing in the US for November, the pig iron prices are now in the low $440’s per metric CFR,” he said. 

The executive believes that with both Brazil and Ukraine supplying the US market, the market is stable at this level.  

There are at least two Ukrainian pig iron producers still able to ship cargoes to the US. Hats off to them.

SMU spoke with a domestic pig iron distributor who told us the prices for all types of pig iron are on the rise. He believes basic pig iron prices in Brazil could rise substantially from their current levels based on renewed interest from steelmakers.

He also added foundry-grade pig iron has also increased in price. The current price of nodular(ductile) pig iron from Brazil is $580-600/MT CFR New Orleans, while foundry pig iron (Bessemer) is $530-550/MT CFR. These grades are solely used by foundries to make iron castings.

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