LAHORE - The cement industry has urged the government to increase custom duty on import of clinker to support the local manufacturers, as exports continue to decline amidst buoyancy in domestic market.

Moreover, the industry recommended that the imports of cement should not be allowed until the importers register themselves with Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) to certify the quality of their cement in line with the Indian government as well as all other importing countries’ authorities, the industry representatives demanded.

The industry stakeholders said that Pakistan has already lost a major chunk of its market in Afghanistan to Iranian cement. The high energy cost has made the cement more expensive as cement is an energy intensive sector.

The cost of electricity and gas in Pakistan is the highest in the region while additional duties on coal imports have nullified the lower cost of coal in the global markets. On the domestic front, high government levies have encouraged some unscrupulous elements to smuggle or import under-invoiced Iranian cement.

According to the data of APCMA, in first six months of this fiscal, the domestic consumption stood at 19.83 million tons. However, the continued decline in exports affected overall growth as exports dropped by 17.34 percent during the same period this year. In December 2017, exports decreased by 11.25 percent to 0.328 million tons as compared to 0.369 million tons in Dec last year, whereas local dispatches increased by 6.82 percent from 3.185 million tons in December 2016 to 3.403 million tons in December 2017.

The exports from North region decreased by 8.14 percent to 1.79 million tons during July-Dec 2017 while exports from South based mills took a major hit as same went down by 36.23 percent from 0.953 million tons in July-December 2016 to 0.608 million tons in July-Dec 2017. They said that exports are down not only because of high cost of doing business but also due to carelessness of the regulators who are ignoring malpractices in imports.