LAHORE - The exuberant sale of cement in March will bolster sector’s 3QFY13 dispatches to 8.6 million tons versus 8.2 million tons in the same period last year, showcasing growth of 4 per cent, experts said.

As per the latest data release by All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association (APCMA), cement dispatches in March 2013 surged by 3 per cent YoY and 27 per cent MoM to 3.33 million tons (highest ever monthly sales figure).

Contrary to YTD FY13 trend, export sales drove the growth (+23 per cent YoY) in March, while local volumes were flattish on YoY basis at 2.56 million tons. Incorporating strong March exports, experts hike FY13E export volumes to 8.4 million tons (from 7.8 million tons) though they trim local sales growth to +6 per cent (from +8 per cent). Furqan Ayub, an industry expert, said that cumulatively, in 9MFY13 total cement offtake stood at 24.54 million tons, up 4 per cent YoY comprising of local sales growth of 6 per cent YoY and decline of 1 per cent YoY in export sales.

Asad Siddiqui, another industry expert, believes that repeat of the same dispatch performance in April, 2013 would allow cement manufacturers with enough room to further strengthen their margins and retire debts.

Manufacturers are of the view that cement industry has been experiencing mixed fortunes and still faces dilemma how to utilise its idle capacity as it grapples with high domestic costs and erratic domestic and export markets.

They said that sector is in a fix as the healthy increase in exports in February and March was accompanied with only marginal growth in domestic cement dispatches. They said the month of March 2013 is remarkable as the industry dispatched ever highest quantum in its history. They expressed concern that the domestic market had remained stagnant during last two months. It registered a nominal growth of 1.58 percent in February 2013 and hardly moved up by 0.17 percent in March 2013. They said stagnant economy and increase in input costs has damaged the potential market of cement. The input cost of almost every industry has increased manifold during the last few years, taking heavy toll on the businesses that are already hit by volatile security situation in the country.