The Jamaican cabinet has accepted a recommendation by the Anti-Dumping and Subsidies Commission to apply an additional 25.83 per cent tariff on imported cement. The additional duty, which takes immediate effect, will push the duty on imported cement to 40.83 per cent. The commission recommended the imposition of the additional duty after investigating a complaint filed in October by the Caribbean Cement Company Limited (CCCL) against cement importer Arc Systems, claiming that Arc was importing dumped Portland grey cement from Egypt, and that they, along with Mainland International, which imported primarily from China and Argentina, were hurting its operation. The additional duty is, however, a provisional one and will last for 200 days, initially, until a further determination. In an immediate response, Canute Salmon, marketing manager at Arc said his company "will not import cement anymore".
"We just cancelled our shipment", he said. The decision by the government, he said, was "a sad day for Jamaica" that would turn around and embarrass the administration. He noted that the cost to his company would be high as "we will have to lay off 120 workers in our cement division". The company currently employs some 300 workers. Salmon also forecasted hard times for the building industry in terms of loss of jobs and an escalation in construction costs.
"As soon as January runs off there will be a shortage of cement and costs are going to hit the roof," he claimed, noting that even if Carib Cement imports to meet the shortfall, they would have to pay the increased duty.
When the complaint was filed by CCCL in September this year, Arc, a multi-faceted manufacturer and exporter and importer of construction products, denied that its cement was being dumped in Jamaica, and argued that its imports were helping to stabilise local cement prices. "Our product is not dumped," said Salmon then.
But general manager at the Cement Company, Anthony Haynes, charged at the time that Arc had significantly stepped up its cement imports since last year, and that between January and April, that firm, along with Mainland, had brought a combined 111,000t of cement into the local market. When compared to Carib Cement's sales of 420,000t in Jamaica up to the middle of September, it meant that imported brands had grabbed a 20 per cent share of the local cement market.
Arc Systems, which is principally owned by Jamaica Labour Party senator, Norman Horne, later helped form the Jamaica Cement Consortium, a lobby group, along with Mainland to attempt to block the imposition of the tariff. The disputed tariff came hard on the heels of the recent furore over the CCCLs request for government to raise the Common Export Tariff (CET) from 15 per cent to 50 per cent and an aborted push by finance minister Omar Davies to get the legislation approved by Parliament last month.