President Umaru Yar’Adua has directed the Minister of Commerce and Industries, Charles Ugwuh to ensure that the price of cement which currently stands at N2,500 per bag is reduced to between N800.00 and N1,000.00 in the next six months.
Addressing State House correspondents after he was summoned to a meeting with the president, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Charles Ugwu said the spiraling price of cement was ’unacceptable’ to the president who has directed that urgent remedial measures be taken to halt it.
He said some measures would be taken to ensure that the price of cement remain stable.
Though he did not disclose some of the measures to be taken, the Minister said that government was considering, "the possibility of allowing the importation of cement at affordable prices for a specified period of time not exceeding six months, within which the price and availability would have been considerably stabilized."
According to the Minister, though some level of progress has been achieved in the cement sector, the local demand still far outstrip the supply of cement.
"It is rather unfortunate that of the estimated annual demand of 18Mt, local operators have only been able to supply 6.5Mt, leaving a shortfall of about 11.5Mt. This no doubt had led to the sharp rise in the price of cement from about N800.00 to N1,400.00 about the middle of last year and then to an unacceptable level of N2,200.00 presently.
"It was against this background and given the serious concern government has for the welfare of the citizenry that led to the decision to issue license to local operators to urgently import bulk cement to meet this shortfall. As it stand, it’s very clear that local demand has far outstripped supply capacity, while local production capacity has not been able to keep pace with demand, hence the present unacceptable increase in cement price.
"Mr President has therefore decided to take measure aimed at drastically reducing the price of cement.
"Among them is the possibility of allowing the importation of cement at affordable prices for a specified Period of time not exceeding six months, within which the price and availability would have been considerably stabilized. This hopefully should arrest the unfortunate and unacceptable hike in the price of cement," he said.