Having extended the duty-free importation of cement from three months to a year, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has quickly sounded a warning against price gouging by distributors who might want to cash in on the market shortage. "I will be keeping a close watch to see that price benefits are passed on to consumers," said Simpson Miller.
This move, Simpson Miller hopes, will keep the price of a bag of cement in line with the average J$450, industry sources say it now costs. Her warning was issued Saturday night at a 10th anniversary dinner hosted by Arc Systems Limited, a one time cement importer, owned by Opposition senator Norman Horne.
A day earlier, Simpson Miller had announced an extension of the 15 per cent duty on cement to ease a shortage created after the sole manufacturer Carib Cement, admitted in February to the delivery of 500t of substandard product to the construction industry in February. Her commerce minister had announced the waiver mid-week, but the construction industry was unappeased, saying the timeline was too short to secure supply and bring the shipments in.
Arc Systems is seeking to get back into the game, and Horne on Saturday welcomed the Prime Minister’s initiative, saying that by June his company would be supplying cement to the local market. According to Simpson Miller the duty free regime should enable importers to be better able to plan their strategies over the longer period.