Nigeria has temporarily lifted a ban on importing cement in bags to meet a sharp shortfall in supply that has pushed up local prices, a top government official said on Monday.
Africa’s top oil producer banned the importation of bagged cement in 2001 to protect a local industry that has failed to grow capacity to meet rapidly increasing domestic demand.
Commerce and Industry Minister Charles Ugwuh said the government would lift the ban for six months to try and close the supply gap and force down prices, which have risen by 80-90 percent since October.
"This action has been taken because local demand has far outstripped supply capacity while local production capacity has not been able to keep pace with demand hence the unacceptable increase in cement price," Ugwuh told reporters after a meeting with President Umaru Yar’Adua in the capital Abuja.
Industry experts say delayed renewal of licences of bulk importers which expired in October meant that they could not ship in cement, triggering a big shortfall in supply. The government gave them provisional approvals in January.
A strong construction boom in the world’s eighth biggest oil exporter in the last six years has driven demand for cement to around 14Mta year from 8Mt six years ago.