Preventing cement imports into Sri Lanka from Pakistan by raising quality issues is a conspiracy that some private sector companies and government officials engage for personal gain, the Minister of Internal Trade and Consumer Affairs Johnston Fernando told the Sunday Observer.
There is a sharp increase in demand for cement due to a boom in the construction industry. Therefore, to prevent a short supply and resulting price increase the ministry has to intervene and import cement.
Since there is a rapid growth in the construction sector in India, cement is expensive in India. On the other hand as a result of terrorist attacks and continuing unrest in Pakistan, the construction sector has been seriously affected. The price of cement is cheaper in Pakistan and the Ministry decided to import cement from Pakistan.
Today 20 per cent of cement is imported from Pakistan and there are several Pakistan manufacturers that export to Sri Lanka and have SLS certification. The SLSI has issued a quality certificate to a private sector company to import 1.4 million bags of cement last month, therefore, this decision of the SLSI is suspicious and the government will inquire into this incident.
He said that although SLSI has suspended imports from this Pakistan manufacturer, the public has not been informed. Already some local manufacturers have increased the price of cement to Rs. 785 per bag, while there is a regulated price of Rs. 750, he said.