LAHORE: Cement consumption in the country increased 11% to 2.24 million tons in December 2012, the highest-ever sales for the month, industry people say.
However, a slump in exports persisted with overseas shipments declining by 10.55% to 580,000 tons in December.
The numbers were released by the All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association here on Friday.
In a statement, a spokesman for the association said cement sales in the domestic market rose 7.61% to stand at 11.728 million tons in the first six months (July-December) of financial year 2012-13. Exports remained under pressure, dropping by 5.28% to 4.22 million tons.
In southern parts of the country, sales of cement units in the first half registered a growth of 7.98% in the domestic market, but exports fell by 16.34%.
In the north, where most of the cement is produced, the industry posted a growth of 7.52% in domestic sales while exports edged down 1.31%.
The spokesman was the view that despite much hype, trade with India had not significantly benefitted the cement industry as sales to the neighbour stood at only 209,000 tons in the past six months, down a whopping 40.41%. “This is well below expectations of the cement sector,” he commented.
In fact, he said, exports to India had been on a constant decline ever since the two countries opened their borders for liberal trade. “The decline is not due to lack of demand, but because of very stringent non-tariff barriers imposed by our neighbour,” he said and pointed out that Pakistan’s cement was preferred by the Indians because of better quality.
Stressing that cement exporters have a potential to export a big quantity to the Indian market, he said they were facing strict resistance with barriers still in place even after discussions on the matter in different rounds of official and unofficial talks between the two countries.
Setting aside India, Afghanistan’s market has proved to be quite lucrative for the cement industry. In the past six months, the industry exported 2.41 million tons to the neighbour, where demand stood high in the wake of reconstruction work.
Exports to other destinations through sea also remained stable in the period under review.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2013.
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