KARACHI: Cement despatches to domestic markets during the month of March 14 declined by 3.7 percent to 2.463 Million Tons compared with 2.557 Million Tons during same month last year. The decline in cement despatches was mainly due to heavy rains in the month of March. Exports during March 14 stood at 725,000 Tons against 768,000 Tons during March, 13. Total despatches during March, 14 were 3.188 Million Tons compared to 3.326 Million Tons during same month last year showing reduction of 4.1 percent.
During the first 9 months of current fiscal year, cement industry despatched 18.76 Million Tons in local markets posting a growth of 2.1 percent compared with local despatches during the same period of last fiscal year. Exports from the country declined by 2.5 percent to 6.02 Million Tons compared with exports during the first nine months of last year. The overall situation during first 3 quarters of current fiscal year showed a meagre 0.96% growth compared to the same period of last fiscal year as total despatches increased to 24.776 Million Tons against 24.541 Million Tons from July 12 to March, 13.
Revealing the performance of the sector Spokesman of APCMA said that during the first nine months of the fiscal, average local cement despatches stood at 2.084 Million Tons per month against 2.041 Million Tons during same period of last fiscal. Exports were however down to 668,000 Tons per month from average of 685,000 Tons per month during the first nine months of last fiscal.
Substantial increase in exports to India was witnessed during March, 14 as the Industry exported 128,000 Tons to India against 51,000 Tons during last month and 55,000 Tons during same month last year. During the first nine months export of cement India increased by 28.40 percent as cement sector exported 420,000 Tons compared to 327,000 Tons during same period of last fiscal. On the contrary, Afghanistan market declined by 16.44 percent as cement sector was able to export only 2.746 million tons during the first nine months compared to 3.286 Million Tons during same period of last fiscal. Exports to other destinations through sea increased by 11.57 percent to 2.850 Million Tons during the first nine months of current fiscal from 2.555 Million Tons during same period of last year.
Spokesman of Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association deplored that the issues impacting cement sector have still not been addressed by the government. In last budget, cement has been brought within the purview of ‘3rd Schedule’ of Sales Tax Act 1990 that has increased the overall tax burden and has resulted in increase in the local prices. Considering the cement dynamics, industry wants government to reconsider its decision and remove cement from 3rd Schedule and to bring it in the normal sales tax regime. This will help industry to reduce prices which will help to accelerate construction activities across the country, he said, adding that the cost of transportation has increased substantially because of diesel rates as well as the restriction on the trucks to load cement and coal according to the approved axle weight.
Industry experts expect positive results from the talks, the government is having with India, to remove non-tariff and technical barriers to export cement from Pakistan. They said that withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan is on the cards and uncertainty has started creeping in the Afghan market which is the reason for low exports to that country.