Govt changes tack as cement dries up

Govt changes tack as cement dries up
Published: 19 December 2007

The government has said it will revoke the cement importation licences issued to the 23 companies from the East African region failing to bring in the item by the deadline they were given.

Under the licences, the firms are allowed to import cement in a move meant to curb the acute shortage of the item which has touched off a countrywide skyrocketing of prices “Most of the companies concerned have not observed the conditions specified in the contract.

We are giving a 14-day grace period, failing which their licences will be revoked and we will have no option but to pass on the work to more serious firms , Industries, Trade and Marketing deputy minister Hezekiah Chibulunje told journalists in Dar es Salaam yesterday.

The companies were supposed to have imported a total of 130,000 tonnes of cement but until Wednesday last week only 4,701.5t had landed in the country.

Chibulunje said the government was confident that the increased supply of cement would have significant impact on prices, which currently stand at between 20,000/- and 22,000/- per 50-kg bag in retail outlets. Until recently, mainly before the shortage hit in earnest, the prices were in the 14,000/- to 15,000/- range.

With cement dealers understood to be behind the supply and price mess by randomly hiking prices under the pretext of reaping the benefits of a free market economy, the government is still undecided on the legal and other measures to take against the culprits.

The deputy minister stated at the weekend that all those behind the artificial shortage of cement and “the resultant unjustifiably high prices” were exploiting customers and would be dealt with under existing laws.

However, he fell short of specifying measures to be taken or saying when and how the government would launch a crackdown against recalcitrant dealers.