China is likely to export 45 million tonnes of steel products in 2011, up 5.7 percent compared with last year, the industry ministry said on Tuesday.

In a statement published on its website (, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology also said that imports were likely to be 16 million tonnes compared with 16.43 million tonnes in 2010.

Steel product imports in the first half fell 4.8 percent from a year earlier to 8.03 million tonnes, while exports edged up 3.2 percent to 24.33 million tonnes.

As the world's top steel-producer, China is expected to output 690-700 million tonnes of crude steel this year, up from 627 million tonnes last year, in line with forecasts by the China Iron and Steel Association (CISA) earlier on Tuesday.

Strong demand buoyed by high fixed-asset investment had driven steel mills to a capacity utilisation rate of 84 percent in the first half, up 3 percentage points from the end of last year, the ministry said.

Total crude steel production in the first six months of 2011 rose 9.6 percent from a year earlier to 350.5 million tonnes.

CISA estimated that China had 800 million tonnes of steel production capacity, with mills under pressure from chronic oversupply and rising iron ore costs.

The ministry warned that steel production may slow in the second half on lower industrial production growth, power outages, the closure of inefficient steelmaking capacity and tighter credit curbs.

A separate statement released by the ministry said output of ten major nonferrous metals -- copper, aluminium, zinc, lead, nickel, tin, mercury, magnesium, titanium and antimony -- was expected to rise about 10 percent this year.

China produced a combined 16.55 million tonnes of the ten metals in the first six months, up 7.27 percent from a year earlier, but down sharply compared with average growth of 13.8 percent over the five years ended 2010.