The Federal Government has granted 13 companies licenses to import bulk cement in order to curtail the escalating prices of cement in the country.
Minister for Commerce and Industry, Chief Charles Ugwu, made the announcement in Lagos on Sunday. With about 11.5Mt shortfall in cement supply in the country, its price has risen to between N2, 400 and N3, 500 in the last few weeks. Chief Ugwu said the 13 companies licensed to import cement were given approval based on the capacity of their plants. He said government has also banned the importation of bagged 50kg cement into the country.
"As far as my ministry is concerned, bagged cement remains banned. We have issued licenses for bulk importation, targeted essentially at local producers. applications have just been received for the second wave of licenses, targeted mainly at bulk users in the construction industry with capacity to absorb over 100,000 tonnes", he said.
The minister attributed the rise in demand for cement to increase in construction activities in Abuja and Lagos areas.
"In 2001, the demand for cement was 8Mt but with just only 2Mt capacity. Today, as at the last quarter of 2007, we have between 18 and 20Mt demand. This has put more pressure on government and other stakeholders and that was why we gave approvals to some companies to import cement in large quantity", he said.