Lack of attention to domestic needs and improper management were the main reasons for the import of an equal amount of sponge iron in this period, IRNA reported referring to Mohammad Fatemian, director general of the Ministry of Industries, Mines and Trade.
"Exports are indicative of a country's capacities. However, revenues and monetary resources earned through mineral exports are required for establishing infrastructures," he said.
Sponge iron is produced through direct reduction of iron ore and has a purity rate of up to 95 percent. It is the best option for replacing iron tailings in steel production units.
Currently, seven sponge iron production units are operating nationwide with a production capacity of 18 million tons per annum. With the completion of the semi-finished sponge iron production projects, the country's capacity in this regard will amount to over 19 million tons per year.
"The decline in housing construction in the country has reduced the use of steel products in Iran's construction sector," he said.
"Today, effective measures are required to increase the export of steel products to strike a balance between domestic supply and demand."
Fatemian noted that the ministry puts emphasis on completing the chain of steel industry's raw materials, which deserve special attention for boosting steel exports.
"As stipulated in the 2025 Vision, Iran's steel output capacity is to reach 55 million tons," he said.
Fatemian noted that the Ministry of Industries, Mines and Trade is preparing the country's comprehensive steel plan.
During March 2013-14, Iran produced 15.6 million tons of crude steel and 16.5 million tons of steel products. In this period, the country extracted 33.6 million tons of iron ore.
Iran's iron ore resources stand at 5.1 billion tons, of which 2.8 billion tons are proven.
Iran ranks first in the Middle East in steel production and is followed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the region's other steel producers.
Iran's major steel mills are located in Isfahan and Khuzestan provinces.
Mobarakeh Steel Mill, with approximately 47 percent of the market share, Khuzestan Steel Company with 23 percent, Isfahan Steel Mill with 20 percent and the Iran National Steel Industries Group with 10 percent of the market share are the main srude steel producers of Iran.
Iran is among the 15 major mineral-rich countries and exports industrial and mineral products to 159 countries, including Iraq, China, India and Afghanistan.