The cement crisis is starting to look like the iron bar crisis of a few week ago. Local suppliers have not placed any order for this year on the global market. As if to show that it will not give in to what it considers "blackmail", the government has decided to import 65,000t of cement next month through the State Trading Corporation (STC). However, a shortage might occur in any case, as the product will take some time to reach the local market.
In fact, the first cargo of some 20,000 tons will reach Mauritian shores in the second week of February. Three other cargos are expected the same month. When the government realised that the private companies involved in the business - namely Holcim and Lafarge - did not intend to order any cement, it decided to ask the STC to take the necessary steps.
Those suppliers indeed made it clear, at a meeting with the ministry of Trade, that they were not satisfied with the proposed price increase. They were expecting at least 20% and they obtained only 14.8% - which is "far from enough" to face increases on the international market. Moreover, "Mauritian authorities were well aware, since last November after the invitations to tender were launched for the country’s supply in 2007, that the price had increased on the international market," revealed one of the operators.
Threats of shortage or price increase
In fact, the main losers are undeniably the consumers. Building a house is becoming increasingly difficult with potential threats of shortage or price increases. Building blocks are said to be on the rise - the price may go up by 60 cents per unit shortly. One of the main reasons is said to be... the rise in the price of cement! As a result, some minor companies have started to supply the market with smaller amounts of blocks. And we could soon witness a shortage of this product too...
As the sales manager of Lafarge Maurice, Vincent Tyack, puts it, "There is a boom in the building industry with Integrated Resort Scheme (IRS) projects as well as hotels but not thanks to individual houses. This is probably due to the increase in the cost of building materials". People may indeed have to wait some months before making sure they have enough funds to start building.