By Natasha Chamba/Michael Magoronga
A technical fault at the country’s largest cement makers PPC Zimbabwe and Larfarge is said to be behind the recent shortage of the commodity on the market, which has seen retailers pushing the price up by more than 15 percent.
Panic had gripped the domestic market in the last two weeks, resulting in a sharp increase in cement prices as dealers capitalised on speculation.
Mr Sifelani Jabangwe, president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), an umbrella body for the manufacturing sector in the country, acknowledged the problem in an interview yesterday.
“The shortage of cement could be due to the fact that coincidentally there has been a technical fault at both PPC Ltd and Lafarge,” he told Business Chronicle, referring further questions to the companies.
PPC Zimbabwe managing director Mr Kelibone Masiyane kept saying he was in a meeting and would comment later but was not reachable later.
Gweru-based Sino-Zimbabwe Cement said their operations were normal and ruled out any fundamental changes in the macro-economic climate. Its sales and marketing manager, Mr Ibiam Sengwe, said they were producing at 100 percent capacity, which translates to 1 000 tonnes per day.
“We are doing exceptionally well. We are offering unhindered service to our customers. Every type of our cement is available on the market and our production is good,” he said.
The temporary shortage of cement has greatly upset the construction sector and shocked the market at large. The few outlets that have the product are reportedly selling it at double the original price. Most hardware stores that normally sell cement have run out of stock, while prices had increased to between $15 and $20 a bag compared to the recommended retail prices averaging $11.50 for PC and $10 for masonry.
The country has a demand of about 1,3 million tonnes of cement annually and local producers have a combined capacity of producing around 1,6 million tonnes per year.
Mr Obert Sibanda from Zimbabwe Building Contractors’ Association said the shortage of cement could dent the economy.
“The shortage of cement is affecting business and we have tried to engage the manufactures on the matter,” he said.
“As a construction company we rely on cement. Nothing can be done in the construction business without cement. We are also trying to investigate on the shortage and the unexpected price hike in the product.”