LAHORE - The cement prices have declined by Rs10-20 per 50 kg bag to an average of Rs550 from the level of Rs560-570 in northern parts of the country because of multiple reasons. However, prices in South region remain intact at an average of Rs580/bag.

Market sources said the prices have come down due to low demand, as construction work is not in progress these days; however, the southern area where weather is normal the rate of the commodity is still high. The industry stakeholders have stressed the need for reduction in duties and taxes to bring down the prices of cement and facilitate consumers which would also help industry to grow as it is playing a vital role in the development of the country.

The industry not only absorbed the 11.7 percent duty on coal import but also the increase in coal price from $54 in May 2016 to $105 now, yet they are being charged for fleecing consumers, industry stakeholders said. Even with higher taxes and input cost, the cement rates in the country are cheaper than neighbouring India (around $4.85 to $5.35) and Sri Lanka ($5.84 to $6.14). The strength and quality of Pakistani cement is superior to that of cement produced in neighbouring countries. This is the reason that Pakistan exports cement to almost all its neighbours. “The factors contributing to decline in exports include increase in fuel prices and other input cost, and the most damaging was the barriers erected by the countries we export to, such as anti-dumping duty imposed by South Africa to protect its local industry,” industry stakeholders said.

Moreover, to discourage imports, the tariff is around 19 percent in India including 3 percent education cess to promote education in the country, which makes it difficult to compete with other exporting countries which have lesser input cost, they added. There is a strong growth in the cement dispatches albeit a continuous decline in exports over the last few years.