Namibia: Ohorongo cement fights back against Chinese importers

Namibia: Ohorongo cement fights back against Chinese importers
10 July 2014

Namibia's Ohorongo Cement plant, part of the German-based Schwenk Zement KG, is battling to beat off Chinese cement imports.

Plant manager, Gerhard Hirth, said  imports from China are always a few cents cheaper than their competitors. The Namibian government had promised Ohorongo Cement it would be protected while in its initial growth phase by a tariff agreement. Cement imports from outside Namibia would be subjected to a 60 per cent levy. However, there are reports of a Chinese importer, which is active in the country but pays no levy while offering cement at competitive prices.

Hirth has taken legal action against the tariff agreement. "The cement is already in Namibia and we have lost more than EUR30m," Mr Hirth said. Legal proceedings are still in progress and are unlikely to end anytime soon, reports Deutsche Welle.

Hirth has invested EUR250m (US$340m) in its Namibian plant and employs 330 people. However, Ohorongo had counted on being able to sell cement to oil-rich Angola. "That was a mistake," said Hirth. Angola slapped an import ban on Namibian cement. A proportion of Angola's cement now comes from China.

Ohorongo cement plant produces 0.6Mta of cement, of which 0.5Mt is destined for the Namibian market in 50kg (110lb) sacks. The rest is exported to Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

To help lower its production costs and help make the plant more competitive Ohorongo Cement is turning to biofuel. As part of its fuel requirement, the cement producer is using woodchips from locally-grown blackthorn. At present biofuel accounts for 30 per cent of Ohorongo's energy needs, but the company plans to raise to 80 per cent.

"In the long term, we will be very competitive," said plant manager Gerhard Hirth. Not having to rely on coal and oil imports, the company was able to keep energy costs down while making a positive contribution to the environment.

"We have the technology and the raw materials to produce high quality cement. We manufacture it economically with staff we have trained ourselves who are really very good workers," he said.

Published under Cement News

Tagged Under: Namibia Ohorongo Cement imports