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Future Prospects For Enhanced Production And Growth In Cement Sector

The current demand-supply situation in the cement sector indicates excess cement production capacity. During the past one decade, the cement manufacturing has been buoyant in Pakistan and the industry has shown tremendous growth in recent years. Owing to the increasing local and export demand due to rising construction activities and regional cement shortages, Pakistani cement sales jumped to exceptionally high. The cement export to Iraq, Iran, India, Afghanistan and UAE witnessed an exceptional growth in the past one decade. Major markets for Pakistan cement exports were Afghanistan and the UAE. The remarkable performance of cement sector was due to the enhanced installed capacity, which had more than doubled during last five years, as well as to the rise in local demand and strong external demand.

Pakistan has already been supplying cement to Afghanistan for the last many years. It has been the key player and a traditional supplier of cement in Afghan market. The cement units in northern areas of the country continued to feed the Afghan market by supplying up to 2.5 million tons. Like Afghanistan, Pakistani exporters have been exporting cement to the war-torn Iraq where the demand for cement has been higher for reconstruction work.

Cement is the essential constituent of construction activity. Presently, the total installed capacity of 28 cement plants is 17.312 million tons in Pakistan. The industry witnessed a steady growth rate of 8 percent until 1994. Before 1994, the country was facing shortage of cement that was met through imports. In 1999, the country’s total production was estimated at 10.384 million tons. In the past three years the cement industry has been facing a crisis situation. With a share of Rs.40 billion per year in the GDP, the cement sector contributes Rs.15-20 billion per annum to the national exchequer.

Pakistan offers great opportunity to capture regional markets due to its geo- strategic location on the confluence of South, West and Central Asia. There are hopes being pinned for high growth of cement industry after the implementation of mega construction projects under $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The rise in cumulative cement dispatches is solely attributable to rising export volumes as domestic demand has so far remained depressed. With CPEC, the domestic demand will witness a sharp surge. The country’s cement industry has the capacity to meet the rising demand of cement for infrastructure projects under CPEC plan. The cement sector will surely get a boost from the implementation of multibillion dollar construction projects under CPEC.

Gwadar Port is of immense importance not only for trade with CARs but also for the development of Pakistan. Of course, Gwadar has the potential to become a hub of major economic and commercial activities in the region. There is a high need for establishing roads and warehousing facilities at Taftan, Chaman and Torkham borders in order to make full use of Gwadar Port. The future scenario necessitates the establishment of a strong, well-coordinated and metalloid highway and road and rail network spreading across the province and interlinking the major commercial centers in Balochistan. The CPEC project is perhaps the answer. The development of road and rail links between the two provinces, Balochistan and Xinjiang, will give distinction to Gwadar port of becoming the gateway port for western China. Rail link will transfer goods to and from western China, changing it from a remote region into a station that will transfer goods and commodities worth billions of dollars every year.

A fully operational Gwadar Port and establishment of port-related communications and links on regional level will bring China and Pakistan in the regional as well as global mainstream of geo-politics and geo-economics in near future. It will not only provide eastern China with cheap and secure sources of energy for its rapid development but also provide a boost to the development of western China and Pakistan. After construction of the proposed rail, road and pipeline projects between China and Pakistan, Gwadar port will handle most of the oil tankers to China. In the present age of globalization, Gwadar has greater scope and tremendous potential to emerge as distribution and logistics hub in the region.

The cement sector is likely to get a boost from the tremendous construction activity generated by multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects planned under the CPEC. Gwadar port is the essential part of the $46 billion CPEC project. No doubt, a huge investment in infrastructure promises a brilliant growth of cement industry of Pakistan. The CPEC involves construction of highways, railways and energy pipelines connecting western China with Pakistan and the Persian Gulf. It will not be incorrect to contend that the CPEC project is going to be a game changer for cement sector.

The main Pakistani cement manufacturers including Bestway Cement, Lucky Cement, and D. G. Khan Cement have set up new plants for further expanding their production capacities. Pakistan produces four types of cements and the raw material- gypsum, limestone, clay/shale- used for cement manufacturing is found in abundance in the country. The country is set to rock the world cement market by making its entry in a big way. The country plans to further enhance its production capacity and fully explore the major markets including India, Russia, UAE, Yemen, Sudan, Ethiopia, Algeria and other North African countries for the purpose. Owing to the shortage of cement in the region and rising demand from India and North African countries, Pakistani cement manufacturers are poised to benefit from the current cement boom in terms of high export price.

At present, India and China are enjoying a robust position in the regional markets as both countries are able to offer competitive prices. The cement manufacturers in China and India enjoy state subsidies for exports. The subsidies lower their costs of production. Pakistan needs to offer local manufacturers the similar subsidies for exports to regional markets to make them competitive.

PAKISTAN’S CEMENT EXPORT POTENTIAL:
COUNTRIESCurrent Demand 1998Demand Growth %Local Production (metric tons)Current GapEst. Gap in 2003Remarks
Bangladesh3100820029004400No limestone
Sri Lanka2000150015001600Fast depletion of limestone reserves
Myanmar2400850019003000No major capital
Yemen280010120016001000High growth rate

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