LAHORE - Cement despatches reached historic heights in March 2017, touching almost 4 million tons with capacity utilisation crossing 101 percent on the strength of robust domestic demand though exports continued to decline.

The All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association (APCMA) said that the ever increasing domestic market has vindicated the manufacturers thrust on adding new capacities. He said Pakistan needs sustained infrastructure activities for at least a decade to close the infrastructure gap with competing economies.

The cement industry is playing its due role to get the momentum going and in March 2017 the industry despatched 3.964 million tons of cement against 3.583 million tons despatched during the corresponding month of last year.

The statistics released by the APCMA reveal that the cement despatches during the first nine months of this fiscal stood at 30.304 million tons that is the highest ever despatches recorded in the first nine months of a fiscal. The figure could have been much higher had the smuggling and under invoicing of cement been curbed.

In the first nine month of this fiscal the industry despatched 30.304 million tons cement showing an overall growth of 6.90 percent over the corresponding period of last fiscal. During this period the domestic consumption increased by 10.90 percent but exports declined by 14.83 percent. It is worth noting that the domestic cement consumption during July-March period of this fiscal increased by 10.26 percent in the North and by 13.81 percent in the Southern part of the country. The capacity utilisation during first nine months of current fiscal is 87.1 percent.

The APCMA spokesman said that the domestic producers are coping with the challenges of unethical exports on the strength of their excellent quality. He said substandard cement created distraction but could not suppress the demand of high quality Pakistani cement. “This cement is much preferred over Indian cement in Indian Punjab but unfortunately our planners have not succeeded in pursuing the Indians to remove the tariff and nontariff barriers,” he added. He said high duties on cement are increasing the cost of the commodity and hurting the consumers. If duties are reduced the manufacturers could pass on the benefit to the consumers and lower cement cost may give rise to construction activities, creating more jobs for the skilled and unskilled labour, he added.

The domestic despatches in March 2017 were 23 percent higher than the despatches in March 2016. The exports in contrast declined by a whopping 60.39 percent. This massive decline in exports reduced the despatches growth in March 2017 to only 10.63 percent. In the first nine months of this fiscal the domestic dispatches increased by 10.90 percent while the exports registered a decline of 14.83 percent.

Mills based in Northern parts of the country despatched 3.058 million tons cement in March 2017 for domestic consumption while those located in the South despatched 0.695 million tons of cement during the same period. He said during the same months the exports from North were only 0.141 million tons and from South 0.071 million tons.