LAHORE: Exports of cement rose a healthy 15.4% in February compared to the same month last year, but sales in the domestic market stood almost stagnant, inching up 1.16% and resulting in lower overall growth in demand than January.
According to data released by cement manufacturers, total sales reached 21.207 million tons in the first eight months (July-February) of current fiscal year 2012-13, up 4.01% than sales in the corresponding period a year earlier.
Cement units running in northern parts of the country sold 1.556 million tons in the domestic market in February and exported 444,000 tons, mostly to Afghanistan. Shipments to India were only 32,000 tons.
South-based cement manufacturers supplied 397,000 tons to the domestic market and their exports were 209,000 tons.
Total sales in the month reached 2.61 million tons, slightly lower than January’s sales at 2.646 million tons.
Industry experts pin hopes on revival of economic activities after elections in the next couple of months that will spur demand for cement.
“Cement industry’s capacity was enhanced in 2003 to meet local demand based on growth projections,” said a cement manufacturer. However, growth stood much below forecasts after 2008, forcing the industry to run much below its capacity.
India was not in the feasibility report prepared by the industry. However, he said, after a thaw in relations between the two countries it looked like the best export market.
Though much had been said about impediments in the way of exports to India, Pakistani trade negotiators could not convince the Indians to remove non-tariff barriers, he remarked.
On the other hand, Afghanistan has been a good market for Pakistani cement, but with gradual withdrawal of western forces from the country, prospects of growth have dimmed.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2013.
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