Zimbabwe: cement shortage looms after price blitz

Zimbabwe: cement shortage looms after price blitz
Published: 24 July 2007

Zimbabwe faces a cement shortage following a cement manufacturing giant’s decision to stop production for the local market in protest against the government order to roll back the prices.  
 
Authoritative sources said last week  Portland Holdings Limited (PHL) had ceased production after incurring huge losses when they sold the cement at pre-June 18 levels, as ordered by the government.  
 
The largest cement producer is part of South Africa’s Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC).  
 
Production was reported to have been hampered by high input costs and unrealistic prices which led to a temporary shutdown of operations at one of their subsidiaries, Colleen Bawn.  
 
Colleen Bawn has stopped supplying clinker, an important component used in the manufacture of cement to its cement plant,  Portland Holdings Limited (PHL) in Bulawayo.  
 
This has led to the loss of jobs for contract workers at the manufacturing plant at PHL as operations at the plant have ground to a halt in the absence of clinker. 
 
Sources indicated Colleen Bawn was now supplying clinker to its South African-based arm, Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) for the manufacture of cement. Zambia is also being supplied with the product.  
 
"Reduced profit due to price cuts and unrealistically low retail prices has forced the manufacturing company to limit its production of clinker for export to countries such as South Africa and Zambia," said an official at the company.  

MD, Trevor Barnard confirmed from South Africa where he was meeting with  Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) officials, the price cuts had "heavily affected" their operations.  
 
But he said operations at Colleen Bawn "have been halted due to a breakdown of equipment". He refused to take more questions.  
 
Meanwhile, the government has been forced to withdraw charges against businesses it had dragged to court for defying its order to roll back prices after it emerged that they were charged before the prices became law.  
 
Companies which were first brought to court at the inception of the blitz, charged under the Statutory Instrument 142 of 2007, had charges against them withdrawn on Tuesday after plea after it emerged that they were charged prior to date when the instrument became law.