LAHORE - The cement industry, in the first quarter of this fiscal year, dispatched 10.348 million tons of cement, the highest ever, and it is well poised to cross the 40 million tons barrier this year.

According the data released by All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers’ Association (APCMA), the sector dispatched 3.199 million tons of cement in September 2017 that was 4.61 percent higher than the commodity dispatched in September 2016. The local consumption however was 10.33 percent higher than the corresponding period of last year. The export sector continued to register a huge decline, which was down by over 23 percent in September 2017 as compared to September 2016.

The local dispatches from mills based in Northern part of Pakistan stood at 2.367 million tons in September 2017, 12.05 percent higher than 2.113 million tons dispatched in September 2016. However, exports from the region fell 16.27 percent from 0.368 million tons in September 2016 to 0.308 million tons in September 2017.

Mills based in Southern region posted a meager increase of 1.77 percent in local dispatches from 0.423 million tons in September 2016 to 0.431 million tons in September 2017. Exports from the region dropped considerably to 0.093 million tons only in September 2017 from 0.155 million tons in the same month last year, registering a decline of 39.63 percent.

Of the 10.348 million tons dispatched in the first quarter the North Zone dispatched 7.522 million tons locally that was 22.83 percent higher than corresponding quarter of last year. The region during this period exported 0.953 million tons of cement that was 7.41 percent less than the exports during same period last year i.e. 1.029 million tons. The mills located in South zone dispatched 1.539 million tons cement in the first quarter of this fiscal that was 17.76 percent higher than the corresponding period of last fiscal i.e. 1.307 million tons. Its exports during the same period were 0.334 million tons that were whopping 35.22 percent less than last year i.e. 0.516 million tons.

APCMA spokesperson expressed dismay at the continued decline in exports particularly from Southern part of the country that is nearer to the seaport. He said the robust construction activities within the country are supporting the cement sector but it still is sitting on some idle capacity that could be exported through government facilitations like sharing the transport cost. “The cement production capacities are likely to increase in near future and the industry would require export base to operate at optimum capacity,” he added. In the past, the government had a scheme of ‘freight subsidy” to facilitate the cement exporters from reaching the seaport in order to export the cement.

He also called for lowering of punitive duties on cement that has made it costly for the construction sector and especially hurting the middle class aspiring to construct a home.