South Africa imports seen as ‘temporary measure’

South Africa imports seen as ‘temporary measure’
Published: 03 January 2007

With building expected to start on Cape Town’s 2010 World Cup stadium by the end of the month, cement suppliers are confident there will be enough material to meet increased construction demands. 
“Certainly demand has gone up faster than anticipated, and there has been a scramble by companies to install extra plants,” said a representative of the Cement and Concrete Institute (C&CI).
“The extent of the cement demand growth over the last four years has been phenomenal,” said John Gomersall, chief executive of Pretoria Portland Cement Company (PPC). 
According to the 2006 Budget Speech, cement sales increased from 7.9 million tons in 2000 to 10.7Mt in 2004. This figure rose by 11.5% in the first quarter of last year and is expected to reach 17Mt by 2010. 
Cement producers invested an estimated R4.4bn in expanded capacity last year. 
The chances of cement supplies running out ahead of 2010 are slim, said the C&CI. Companies were importing cement to keep up with the short and medium term demands, while plants were being expanded. 
Most companies were running their kilns at full capacity to keep up with demand for cement. 
Colin Jones, technical director of PPC, said the company had increased cement imports temporarily to meet the increased demand.
He also said two feasibility studies were under way to expand production facilities in the Western Cape and Gauteng. 
Jones said PPC, which supplies cement to the Western Cape, had “ample stocks” and was doing well to meet demand. 
In the company’s annual report last year, Gomersall said PPC’s cement facilities ran at the company’s highest production levels in more than 100 years. Until its expanded projects come on stream, Gomersall predicted that between 300,000 to 500,000t of bagged cement would be imported by PPC this year. But this would be no more than eight per cent of PPC’s anticipated sales. 
He said PPC was planning to expand facilities to meet increasing demand. 
Holcim, South Africa’s second largest cement producer, will keep all its kilns in operation to keep up with demand expected from government projects such as those related to 2010.
While planning for the installation of new facilities, Holcim has been importing cement “due to the unprecedented growth in demand”.