LAHORE – Cement exports registered the highest increase of 15.40 per cent in February 2013 compared with corresponding month last year but the local sales remained almost stagnant inching up by 1.16 percent only resulting in lower growth in the sector than January 2013.

A press release of All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association issued here on Monday stated that overall cement dispatches reached 21.207 million tons in the first eight months of this fiscal which is 4.01 percent higher than the sales recorded during corresponding period (July-February) of last fiscal. The growth according to industry experts is not enough to provide comfort to the cement manufacturers.

In February 2013 the cement units located in the Northern part of the country despatched 1.556 million tons of cement for domestic market and 0.444 million tons of cement most of it to Afghanistan and other destinations through sea while exports to India were only 0.032 million tons. The south based mills provided the domestic market with 0.397 million tons of cement while its exports were 0.209 million tons. The total cement despatches in February was 2.610 million tons which was nominally lower than January 2013 despatches of 2.646 million tons.

Industry experts are pinning hopes on economic revival to spur cement consumption after the elections. “The cement industry was established to fulfill local demand based on the projections of growth in 2003” said a cement manufacturer. He said unfortunately the growth remained much below projections after 2008 that resulted in huge idle capacities. He said India was not in the feasibilities when the industries were planned. However after thaw in relations between the two countries it looked like the best prospect for cement exports.

He said much has been said about the impediments to exports to India most of which need action from the Indian side. Unfortunately he added the Pakistani trade negotiators have been unable to convince the Indians to remove their non tariff barriers and mind set towards Pakistani products. He said Afghanistan remained a good market for Pakistani cement but with the gradual withdrawal of western forces from that country the prospects of growth have diminished.

A research analyst for Taurus Securities, Taha Khan Javed said that increase of exports is a welcome change after lower exports numbers witnessed in January, due to winter effect in which sales to Afghanistan are normally affected.