Contractors: Cement price hike unfair

Contractors: Cement price hike unfair
Published: 31 October 2007

Companies in the ready-mixed concrete construction sector are asking the government to look into monopoly cement provider Trinidad Cement Ltd’s most recent cement price hike as they believe TCL timed the hike near the general elections so trade regulators and ministers would be too preoccupied to intervene.

Managing director of Coosal’s Construction, Sieunarine Persad Coosal said: "It is blatantly obvious that this increase has been timed to take effect before the general elections on November 5 when Government ministers are busy electioneering and are unable to intervene."

TCL recently announced an increase of $64.64/t on their bulk OPC cement, effective November 1.

Coosal told the Express: "TCL can do this and enjoy this monopoly within the industry because they have been protected for far too long. The timing is like a shot in the dark from them, it is not justified."

TCL’s general manager, Arun Goyal responded yesterday: "TCL does not conduct business according to any political calendar. We increased our price on only one type of cement and there is an alternative called TCL Premium which can be used, which was not increased. And truth is we had no choice but to raise prices as increasing freight costs and the decrease of the US dollar makes it more expensive for us to buy our imported raw materials overseas."

He said everything else in the world was increasing at this time and it was unfair for the company’s timing to be likened to a political ploy.

Mikey Joseph, president of the Trinidad and Tobago’s Contractors Association said: "TCL does have a monopoly hold on local cement production and sale, however, for more than a year now the government has made it so contractors can import at least 25 per cent of the total amount of cement we use each year from abroad."

He said if contractors believed they could source cheaper cement outside of Trinidad they were free to do so since the tariffs on importation had been lowered.

Joseph said: "As much as the abrupt increase is unfair as contractors are usually signed on to fixed price contracts with their clients long in advance of any hikes, TCL is also running a business and we can’t tell them how to do it."