Zimbabwe: firms resume cement deliveries

Zimbabwe: firms resume cement deliveries
Published: 13 February 2008

Cement manufacturers have started delivering cement following a review of prices by the National Incomes and Pricing Commission.

Pretoria Portland Cement has 1188t stored at Bak Storage in Harare awaiting distribution. NIPC chairman Mr Godwills Masimirembwa yesterday said cement shortages that had hit the construction industry lately are set to ease following the reviewing of prices.

The commission has also reviewed the prices of coal which cement makers said was in short supply because of unviable prices. Speaking after touring Bak Storage in Harare where the PPC’s UniCem brand of cement is stored, Mr Masimirembwa said cement companies would make available at least 1 000 tonnes every week to hardware shops.

The deliveries, targeted for Harare and Chitungwiza, are expected to reach between 4000 and 6000t by the end of February. The NIPC recently approved cement price reviews with a 50kg bag now selling for $88m, an increase of 733 percent. Mr Masimirembwa said retail prices could increase slightly because retailers would add transport and handling costs.

"The shortages were being caused by coal shortages from Hwange but after we set viable coal prices cement producers have increased production and it means that the commodity would be readily available on the market," he said. "In an effort to monitor the pricing and distribution of the commodity, the NIPC would publish the names and addresses of the companies through the media.

"Cement producers have their traditional customers whom they have advised on the availability of cement and after agreeing with producers we are going to publish where people can get the cement for easy follow-up on pricing and distribution," said the NIPC boss.

This move was expected to kill the black market and ensure cement is sold on the formal market. Deliveries from Lafarge Cement, formerly Circle Cement, from their Mabvuku plant will start today while Sino-Zimbabwe will commence deliveries in the next four weeks as it was currently on its annual shutdown. The deliveries, Mr Masimirembwa said, would lead to an improvement in cement supplies and death of the black market.

Cement has not been readily available on the formal market for almost a year and Mr Masimirembwa said this was "going to be a thing of the past".

"We believe the prices are viable to ensure continued productivity," he said, adding that cement manufacturers were now operating at 90 percent capacity. The NIPC and cement companies would track traders who bought the cement to "see if they are not channelling stocks to the black market".

Bak Storage chief executive Mr Davison Ziki expected more deliveries before the end of the week.