Cement shortage flows slowly into St Louis, USA

Cement shortage flows slowly into St Louis, USA
Published: 11 August 2004

A growing national cement shortage has reached St Louis, raising concerns about construction delays. But for now, no one seems to be pushing the panic button over the supply of cement, the building block of concrete.

"It hasn’t hit us hard, but it’s starting to creep into the market," said Len Toenjes, president of the Associated General Contractors of St. Louis.

"We are working on the MetroLink project, and we have not had any issue being able to get concrete delivery," said Kevin Kuntz, senior vice president of operations at McCarthy Building Cos. of Ladue. "We’re pouring anywhere from 200 (cubic yards of concrete) a day to as high as 400 yards."

The area’s largest highway contractor also has experienced no problems. "I know it’s a real problem in the South, but I haven’t seen it here yet," said  Tom Barta, a senior vice president at Fred Weber Inc. of Maryland Heights.

"I think this area is closer to the cement suppliers as opposed to areas in  the South."

Indeed, the St Louis area has several cement plants. But one producer, Holcim Inc, said it recently imposed "allocations" on St Louis customers.

In general, the allocations provide enough cement to meet existing needs. If demand increases, however, cement shortages and construction delays are possible.  "The intent of the allocation is to make sure that projects continue," said Tom Chizmadia, a spokesman for Holcim. "How it impacts the timing and scheduling, you have to look back to the contractor."

While the cement shortage has done little to upset construction, it has led to a rare double price increase this year for cement. Typically, cement producers pass along a single price hike in March. But a second round of price increases has started, pushing up concrete prices from two per cent to five per cent.