LAHORE: Exports – that once provided a cushion to cement manufacturers against under-utilised capacity – continued their downward trend in March 2012. Compared to last year, the export of cement declined by 23.72% in March; offsetting a significant 14.8% increase in domestic sales which crossed 2.5 million tons in the same month, according to a spokesperson of the All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association (APCMA).
The APCMA expressed delight on the revelation that domestic sales picked up in March; the first month during which sales crossed the 2.5 million tons mark. The spokesperson said that total domestic sales in the first nine months of this fiscal year have reached 17.386 million tons, against 16.040 million tons during the same period last year, indicating an overall increase of 8.40%.
“This is better, but we need much more sales to utilise idle production capacities.” He added that disappointing export performance had reduced the gains made by growth in domestic sales.
According to the spokesperson, exports in March this year stood at a mere 625,358 tons, compared to 819,805 tons in March 2011.
“In the first nine months of this fiscal year, cement exports have declined by 7.76% to 6.243 million tons, compared to 6.769 million tons during the corresponding period last year,” he noted.
He expressed concerns about the decline in sea exports, which affected cement plants located in the southern parts of the country. He said that exports from sea declined during the first nine months of the current fiscal year by a significant 22% to 2.425 million tons, against exports of 3.107 million tons during the corresponding period last year.
Exports to Afghanistan registered a growth of 2% in the first nine months of this fiscal year to 3.336 million tons from 3.403 million tons in July 2010-March 2011. This reduced growth is being attributed to the prolonged winter season, and it is hoped that the figure will cross 5 million tons by the end of the current fiscal year.
On the other hand, exports to India, though still below potential, grew by a healthy 26% to 483,337 tons in the period under review. The spokesperson said he hoped India will remove non-tariff barriers soon, to pave the way for accelerated exports in the remaining three months of the current fiscal year.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2012.