Malawi has, with immediate effect, removed the requirement for cement traders to obtain licenses before importing cement into the country, the website of The Nation newspaper of the country reported Thursday.
It quoted Trade and Industry Minister Ken Lipenga as saying on Wednesday that the move has been made to reduce the current shortage of the commodity on the local market.
"The shortage of cement in the country has come at a time when there is a lot of construction work taking place. So as government we have decided to open the gates for anyone who wants to import cement into the country.
"This means that importers will no longer have to seek licenses to import the cement. This is a temporary measure and will be reviewed once the situation gets back to normal," he said.
The country introduced licenses for cement importers in early 2000 as a way of controlling the influx of imported cement on the local market and to provide breathing space for the infant local industry to survive and grow.
Malawi has been facing shortage and subsequent increase in the price of the brick-holding product due to the economic crisis in Zimbabwe from where the country imports raw materials for the production of cement.
The Zimbabwe crisis has forced the country’s main cement producer Lafarge Portland Cement Limited to get the raw materials from the Far East.
Lafarge Portland commercial manager Nesta Msowoya said earlier this month that its suppliers of clinker and gypsum, Circle Cement of Zimbabwe, is facing problems to adequately supply the ram materials and that it is unlikely that a solution would be found in the short term.
"The situation looks grave and there are no signs of an immediate solution in sight. We are not even sure whether the little cement that trickles from Zimbabwe will continue and suffice an average monthly requirement of 17,000 metric tons," he added.
He also said the decision to import clinker from the Far East has increased landed costs by 38 percent, thereby leading to a 14 percent cement price hike by his company.
Portland has been importing clinker mostly from Zimbabwe since November 2002, when Changalume limestone mine was shut down after a survey revealed that deposits had run out.
Currently the company is exploring ways of getting the raw material at Chenkumbi Hills in Machinga where it is expected to pump in about 10.6 billion kwacha (about 75 million U.S. dollars). The mine is expected to start its operations by 2009/2010.