Kenya is facing a major shortage of cement due to rising exports to South Africa and to Sudan amid a booming domestic construction industry.
Many hardware shops do not have cement, and the building and construction operations are threatened with closure. Retail prices of a 50-kg bag of cement have also gone up to Sh620.
Distributors in Nakuru, who gave various reasons for the shortage, say they are rationing sales to maintain customers.
One supplier blamed cement manufacturing firms for the shortage.
"They are producing less because their machines are under maintenance," he said.
Mary Nthiwa, another distributor said that a lot of cement is being exported to Sudan leaving few bags in stock.
"Due to the few bags left in stock, the prices are forced to increase," she said.
Unconfirmed reports say South Africa is buying a lot of cement to build hotels and stadiums ahead of the 2010 World Cup.
On Thursday, the country’s major cement producer, Bamburi Cement, moved to assure the industry that the shortage is short term. A director with the firm, Mr David Njoroge, however conceded that routine maintenance undertaken
at Athi River Mining (ARM) and the East African Portland Portland Cement (EAPC) had led to a strain on Bamburi’s production levels.
Last month, Bamburi was supplying ARM with 7,000 tonnes of clinker and was also giving substantial clinker to EAPC. "The three major players in the cement industry need to be producing at normal capacity to supply the demand in the market," he said.
Njoroge said output is reverting back to normal after the two producers started normalising their operations. Last week, a vessel laden with 40,000 tonnes of imported clinker from India arrived at the port of Mombasa with the consignment.