Cement industry threatened by cheap imports

19 Jan 2017

Times of Swaziland, 19 January 2017
By Sifiso Sibandze

MBABANE – Undisputedly, building material retail shops are continuously stocking large volumes of cement imports.

Arguably, this is a threat to the country’s cement company. What is worth noting is that most of the imports are a bit cheaper than AfriSam cement.

According to one of the building material selling shops manager in Mbabane, who chose to comment on condition of anonymity, most of the shops are increasing their orders of cement imports more so because it makes business sense to them as their customers find it (imported cement) affordable than AfriSam cement.

The manager went on to say that consumers are saying the cheap imports are almost, as strong as the locally produced product.

“Our increased volume of imports is informed by the demand. The higher the demand, the more we have to buy to satisfy our customers,” said the store manager.

He added: “It is an open secret that sale of locally produced cement is too low to be comparable to the high sales of cement imports. In as much as we are supporting AfriSam Swaziland through stocking their product, the crux of the matter is that we cannot force our customers to buy AfriSam cement.”

The case of cheap cement imports is not affecting Swaziland alone as it is the same in South Africa. Having seen that cheap cement imports were affecting their local market, the South Africa’s International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) imposed anti-dumping duties on Portland cement, originating or imported from Pakistan, ranging from 14 per cent to 77 per cent.

Despite the imposing of the anti-dumping duties, imported cement prices remained relatively low.
On a positive note, the duties resulted in the dropping of cement imports into the South African market from Pakistan, by 30 per cent.

In a move to try and protect the cement industry, the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Trade once commissioned a study to find out if the industry needed protrection. It was commissioned by the then Director of Industry Phumelele Dlamini - the incumbent Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Swaziland Investment Promotion Authority (SIPA).