Demand for cement grew during the second quarter of the current fiscal year but the rate of growth declined compared with the first quarter, a statement issued here Friday quoted Tariq Saigol, chairman, All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association (APCMA), as saying. Mr Saigol said the slowdown in growth might be due to the impact of the winter season in the northern areas, lower demand in Afghanistan and a slackening of development activity in the North West Frontier Province. Nevertheless, he said, total dispatches of cement from factories during the first six months of the current year amounted to 6,290,02t, out of which 490,377t were exported to Afghanistan.
Mr Saigol said during the first six months of the current fiscal year capacity utilisation remained 75.10 per cent, which compares favourably with the corresponding period of the last financial year, when total dispatches amounted to 5,520,919t including 158,866t for export and capacity utilisation was recorded at 68.76 per cent.
³The continual rise in demand now firmly establishes the fact that the economy is finally on a growth path as borne out by increased spending on infrastructure projects and expanded requirement in the private sector, particularly for housing.² Mr Saigol said. Prices of cement have remained stable with retail prices at around Rs220 to Rs225 per bag and certain brands are selling as low as Rs200 per bag. He said an adverse development has been the continuing increase in coal prices, which at the international market has reached US$56 per tonne and there appear no signs of this trend abating. Unfortunately, the local coal mining industry is yet to be developed along sound industrial and scientific lines, he said, adding that the government would be well advised to focus on this aspect. Mr Saigol said a reduction in cement prices was not possible due to high taxes on this item coupled with recent rise in coal prices. He said reduction in prices would be possible if the government decides to reduce or abolish excise duty in the next budget. Mr Saigol said cement sector continues to attract the interest of stock investors as cement stocks have witnessed vibrant activity during the quarter which ended on December 31.