5 - 11, 2012

Despite enormous potential, the installed and unutilised capacity of cement industry in Pakistan is not effectively exploited through cement exports to India.

The cement export to India has registered decline of 15.67 percent in the first quarter of current fiscal year, standing at 137,742 tonnes versus 163,340 tonnes exports volume of the yesteryear's same period, sources in Association of Pakistan Cement Manufacturers (APCMA) said.

According to them, Pakistan's cement is preferred by the Indians because of high quality and cement sector was expecting a quantum jump of at least 0.5 million tonnes in last fiscal on easing of NTBs by India but it did not happen. Exports to India in fact have been on constant decline ever since the two countries opened their borders for liberal bilateral trade. The export decline is not due to lack of cement demand in India, it is due to stringent NTB erected by our neighbour.

Cement exporters having potential to export a big quantity to Indian market are facing a strict resistance by the Indian government, as NTB are not removed even after having been specifically mentioned during different rounds of official and unofficial talks between the two countries.

Exporters are facing a number of issues including a complex six to seven months process to obtain a certificate from Indian authorities for cement export.

A cement exporter said the quality certificate for cement exporters is valid for one year period merely, despite of six to seven months procedural duration. But none of the exporters is allowed to continue their exports after expiry of certificate limit that are needed to get renewal in a brief period. The complicated process of quality certificate holds on cement exports of many companies at a time hence the exports quantity shrinks gradually. The Indians have not eased the procedures and the certification cost is high, as the exporters have to bear heavy expenses for the visit and stay over of Indian inspectors. Pakistani and Indian railways could exchange the same number of wagons for transportation of goods exports however the Pakistani wagon could not carry big cement orders due to restriction by Indian government as a rule of reciprocal. The railways wagons from the Indian side are limited for cement exporters, which increase their cost of cement transportation heavily, cement exporters said.

They demanded the government to raise the issues of NTBs before Indian government for immediate solution and allow Pakistani cement makers to explore markets in all potential provinces on priority basis.

A spokesman for APCMA said the government should persuade cement industry's case, which has been facing problems due to NTB in India despite increasing demand.

He said cement was one of the industries having potential to help bridging the gap between the volumes of trade between the two countries in which Pakistan's exports are far less than possible.

The spokesman urged both governments should avail the opportunity and strengthen each other, as Pakistan is best cement provider to India having lots of demand in the construction sector while its production units are running full capacity.

Moreover, cement manufacturers have persuaded Pakistan Customs and Railways for the tightening of the security of India-bound wagons carrying cement after the narcotics was detected in stocks when they reached India and were opened.

A spokesman for the Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association (APCMA) said that there have been 'four' such incidents in the past few months when the Indian customs have found a quantity of heroin in cement consignments.

He said that these detections besides tarnishing the image of the country are adversely impacting cement and other exports as well. Custom officials and Railways administration in a joint meeting with the APCMA agreed to take further measures to plug all possible loopholes in this regard he said.

According to the meeting minutes signed by Additional Collector Customs Dr Asif Jah, the Divisional Transport Officer Railways Tariq Latif has agreed to install proper lights at the T-10 Railway shed at Lahore where cement wagons are loaded at night, he added. The minutes further revealed that both Railways and Custom officials have promised to depute more staff at the T-10 where cement is loaded in the India- bound wagons. It was also agreed that an examination of goods would be done at the T-10 after the wagons were filled (earlier the wagons were examined much later after leaving the T-10 shed).

Railways officials agreed to seal the loaded wagons after examination by the customs. For this purpose they agreed to use quality seals arranged and provided by the APCMA. They also agreed to depute more police at the T-10 premises to stop entry of unauthorised persons.

The railways, however, expressed their inability to detain all loaded wagons at the T-10 because of the shortage of space. However they gave the assurance that they'd maintain full vigilance on the loaded and sealed wagons when they are stationed at the Jallo/Wahga Railway track for some days before crossing over to India. The Railways officials agreed that scanners need to be installed to scrutinise the loaded wagons. They promised to approach the higher authorities to do the needful.