In the next few weeks shiploads of cement are expected at Nigerian seaports, following the lifting of the ban on cement imports by the federal government. The ban was lifted in order to bridge the yawning supply deficit in the cement market, the likely reason for the rise in the price of the product in the past two years. The price of a 50kg bag of the commodity has risen from N700 in 2002 to N1, 800 last month.
The decision to ban cement imports was taken in order to encourage local industries. Demand for cement is estimated at 18Mta while local firms could only produce 6Mt, however, and the deficit had to be filled with imports. Many low-income earners have abandoned their building projects due to the high cost of this key raw material. Lifting of the ban is therefore desirable.
There is need to monitor the inflow of the product into the country, however. Unfettered imports could mean flooding the market with substandard cement and worsening the perennial cases of building collapse in the country. A timetable that would indicate a phased ban of the product’s importation will be necessary as local production rises to the challenges of demand. Also, importation of cement should not be an all-comer affair. Only firms with solid commitment to the nation’s self-sufficiency in cement production should be encouraged.