Cement sales stagnant in eight months

KARACHI: Cement despatches during the first eight months of current fiscal year clocked in at 30.09 million tonnes compared to 30.160m tonnes during the same period last year, according to latest data released on Saturday.

However, exports during the period under review jumped up by 52.3 per cent to 4.649m tonnes against 3.053m tonnes during the same period last year.

Region-wise, the northern millers suffered due to a 10.58pc decrease in domestic consumption, falling to 19.98m tonnes from 22.344m tonnes during the same period last year. Moreover, exports from the region also fell by 16pc to 1.857m tonnes from 2.212m tonnes.

The medium-term outlook for exports remains dim as India recently imposed 200pc duty on all imports from Pakistan.

Spokesman of All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association said this has caused big loss to the industry as approximately 300 cement trucks bound for India were sent back following the tensions between the two neighbors. Southern manufacturers also suffered as cement containers at Karachi port were also sent back.

Overall, southern milliners performed better during July-February, as local despatches and exports rose by 16pc and 232pc to 5.462mn tonnes and 2.792mn tonnes respectively.

February despatches dip Month-on-month despatches declined by 19pc during February compared to same month last year as manufacturers shipped 3.325m tonnes of cement and clinker. Domestic consumption plunged by 19pc from 3.479mn tonnes in February 2018 to just 2.817m tonnes in February.

Moreover, exports during February increased by a healthy 69pc to 0.508m tonnes against 0.301m tonnes in February 2018.

On the other hand, domestic consumption in the northern region declined to 2.148m tonnes ion February against 2.871m tonnes same month last year whereas exports from the northern manufacturers also suffered 8.66pc fall to 0.165m tonnes.

The southern region fared comparatively better as local consumption in the region stood at 0.669mn tonnes during the month under review compared to 0.609mn tonnes in February 2018. Exports also increased by 185pc from 0.120mn tonnes to 0.343mn tonnes in February.

APCMA spokesman expressed concern on the constant decline in cement uptake across the country, especially in the northern region, for various reasons. Rains in almost all parts of the country have affected the construction activities.

Moreover, slow down in government spending on Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) is also a major concern for the industry. Meanwhile, exports to India have also come to a halt in the wake of ongoing tensions on the border.

He urged government to support the industry by minimising duties and taxes, especially on exports to help the industry earn foreign exchange in these testing times. The government should restart spending on PSDP to boost not only consumption of cement and other construction materials but the work opportunities for skilled and unskilled labour.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2019