Leading Lebanese cement companies are expected to increase their exports the promising Iraqi market this year despite the security deterioration in some parts of the country. Firms from Lebanon were reportedly responsible for the export of more than 600,000t of cement to Iraq in 2003 and in 2004 this figure is expected to jump to more than 1.5Mt.
"Iraq is a promising market for cement companies that have seen a drop in business over the past few years," Pierre Doumet, the chairman of Cimenterie Nationale, told the Lebanese Daily Star on Thursday.
According to Tripoli’s Chamber of Commerce, cement ranked number one in the list of exports to Iraq, with dozens of Lebanese companies vying for contracts in Iraq despite the cold political relations between the two countries. The US administration in Iraq has invited Arab firms to take part in the reconstruction, while the Iraqi government invited companies to submit offers for more than 700 major projects in Iraq during the economic forum that took place in Beirut in mid-March earlier thisyear. When asked if he thought that current security concerns have affected exports, Doumet said he believed that calm would eventually prevail in Iraq in the coming few weeks. "Construction is still taking place in many parts of Iraq despite the clashes in some areas."
The four main producers of cement in the country have seen a drop in output from 1980 to 2003 due to the economic slowdown and the sharp rise in production costs. Cimenterie Nationale, Holcim, Sibline and Seament delivered 2.6Mt of cement to the Lebanese market in 2003, compared to its peak output of four million tones in 1995.
The cement companies sell a ton of cement to Iraq at US$85 and in Lebanon at US$65. "But in reality, we are paying a lot of money to transport the cement to Iraq via Syria and we end up paying additional costs," Doumet said.