Speaking at the European Steel Congress in the southern Polish city of Katowice, Jacek Sasin, the minister for state assets, emphasized the significance of the steel industry to Poland's economic growth, state news agency PAP reported.
He pledged support and development of a segment of the metallurgical sector "under the domain of the State Treasury."
"Energy and the steel industry are absolutely vital for our economic development," Sasin said on Monday. "Steel is key to the major initiatives we undertake today. It's impossible to contemplate energy transition, the rebuilding of the arms industry, or the expansion of construction without the adequate steel supply."
He asserted that, despite a roughly 40-percent drop in domestic steel production over the past three decades, with an annual output of around 8.5 million tons, Poland still ranks among the larger steel producers in Europe.
However, Poland's production only meets about half of its national demand, with the rest coming from imports.
Challenges faced during the pandemic and the energy crisis triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine have disrupted supply chains and led to price hikes.
"We face a significant supply gap in Poland, with around 7.7 million tons of steel imports exceeding exports," said Sasin. "This clearly illustrates the challenges before us."
The majority of the steel industry in Poland is foreign-owned; the leading investor is the global conglomerate ArcelorMittal, the PAP news agency reported.
Only around 10 percent of the industry is domestically held, of which about 3 percent is under the State Treasury, including Huta Łabędy, Walcownia Blach Batory, and companies associated with Huta Pokój – all concentrated under the Katowice-based Węglokoks group, which is steadily shifting focus towards the steel segment.
The company has announced the construction of a new steel plant in Ruda Śląska, with an estimated output of about 1 million tons of steel annually, at a cost of over PLN 5 billion.
"This project is intriguing and crucial for Poland's interests, showcasing a new quality in the steel industry. It will be the largest investment in this sector since 1989," said Sasin.
He told the conference that Poland "values every investor" in the steel production sector and noted that the government has introduced special support mechanisms for energy-intensive industries, including metallurgy.
"We realize how hard the energy price increase hit this industry, which is why we have allocated substantial resources for its support," he said.
Jacek Sasin. Photo: P. Chmielewski/Polish Radio
Poland is among the top 25 steel producers globally, and the EU as a whole is in third place, with an annual output roughly the same as India's. China is by far the world's top producer.
The two-day European Steel Congress 2023, inaugurated in Katowice on Monday, attracted around 1,200 participants, including steel producers, distributors, industry experts and researchers.