KARACHI Aug 05(TNS): Starting on a positive note for the cement sector, the current fiscal year recorded a 45 per cent jump in despatches in July. Local sales and exports grew 55pc and 2.3pc, respectively.
Despite political turmoil and heavy rains throughout the country, growth in cement despatches was witnessed. Capacity utilization in July stood at 86pc. Local despatches from north-based units were 2.42 million tons while their export despatches were 0.33m tons in July. In contrast, their local and export despatches remained 1.51m tons and 0.30m tons in July 2016. Despatches of south-based mills increased from 0.35m tons in July 2016 to 0.48m tons last month. Their export despatches fell to 0.13m tons from 0.16m tons a year ago.
Exports to Afghanistan rose 40pc from 0.15m tons in July 2016 to 0.21m tons last month. However, this was offset by a decline of 11.6pc and 19pc in the exports to India and other countries by sea, respectively.
The All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association (APCMA) spokesman said the industry established a record in July by despatching 3.38m tons of cement. The sector never posted despatches of more than 3m tons in July in the past. He said the industry operates under a stiff regulatory environment, adding that it has upgraded its technology to face new challenges. Imported cement cannot compete with the Pakistani product if it is brought into the country at the fair value by paying all levies, he said. However, weak border controls and lax customs vigilance allow entry of cement from across the border, he said.
He urged the government to lower the excise duty on cement to boost despatches. The duty on coal imported by the sector should be brought on a par with other segments of the economy, he added.