Cement prices in the Afghanistan capital Kabul have been on the rise following the closure of the under-construction Mahipar Road linking the city with Torkham.
Most cement supplies from Pakistan reach Kabul via the Mahipar Road, which has been closed to all traffic for more than a month due to ongoing construction work.
Officials at the Ministry of Mines and Industries reckon Afghanistan needs more than 200,000t of cement annually, with the lion’s share of it imported from neighbouring Pakistan.
Shamsuddin, a dealer in Dahan-i-Bagh area, told Pajhwok Afghan News on Wednesday the price of one cement bag had gone up from 180 afghanis
(US$4.20) to 225 afghanis during the last one month.
As a result of the Mahipar route closure, the longer and unpaved Lataband road that zigzags through jaggy mountains is currently being used as an alternative.
Frequent snarl-ups and late deliveries have led to a hike in rates of different commodities transported from Pakistan.
Another cement merchant, Noor Mohammad, claimed the price of this building material had registered a 75 per cent increase over the last couple of years
- mainly owing to the large-scale reconstruction process.
Economist Hamid Farooqi, who assailed the Afghan government for not paying heed to setting up cement factories in the country, feared the price-spiral could deal a debilitating blow to the reconstruction effort.
Minister for Mines and Industries Engineer Mir Mohammad Siddiq said cement factories in Ghouri, Jablus Siraj, Herat and Kandahar produced up to 150 tons of cement on a daily basis, a production level that could not meet the country’s growing requirement.
All cement factories in Afghanistan are government-controlled, with the private sector yet to step in.
Experts believe the private sector should be allowed to set up new factories with a view to augmenting Afghanistan’s dismally inadequate cement production capacity.
Engineer Mir Mohammad Siddiq revealed his ministry was mulling framing a new law permitting foreign companies to invest in setting up cement factories.