LAHORE -  The cement exports recorded a decline of 3.53 percent in December 2016 compared with exports during the same period of last year.

According to data released by All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association, during the month of December 2016, exports to Afghanistan decreased from 0.201 million tons in December 2015 to 0.149 million tons showing a decline of 25.72 percent. However, exports to India registered healthy increase from 0.053 million tons in December last year to 0.087 million tons during the same month this year, showing growth of 63.20 percent. Exports to India are mainly through Wahga border and southern coast of India.

Experts said that domestic dispatches in December 2016 were 3.186 million tons registering a growth of 6.74 percent while the exports amounted to 0.369 million tons reflecting negative growth of 18.98 percent, compared to December 2015. Total cement dispatches in December amounted to 3.555 million tons depicting a growth of 3.33 percent. Capacity utilisation for the month of December 2016 was 90.88 percent.

Industry experts expressed concern over falling exports to Afghanistan that have declined in the first six months of this fiscal by 11.72 percent. They said cement exports to India have registered an increase of 79.64 percent during July-December 2016 period from a very low base. They said that there is a strong need to cut down duties and taxes to bring down the prices and facilitate consumers which would also help industry to grow as it is playing a vital role in the development of the country.

They urged the government to support the industry by placing anti-dumping duty on Iranian cement and decreasing the taxes to make it more affordable to consumers which will increase the demand of cement and result in capacity enhancement of the industry.

They said cement is one of the most updated and technologically advanced industries of Pakistan that needs government support. They said Pakistan operates most efficient cement industry that has made inroads even in Indian market despite tariff and non-tariff trade barriers. They said the Pakistani industry should also be protected in the same manner. If the government is interested in reducing the cement rates then it should reduce the levies on domestic production, they suggested.

In last fiscal budget, the government increased taxes on cement from Rs600 to Rs1,000 along with sales tax of 17 percent, while industry previously paid Rs2,492 per ton.