THERE is no need for Zimbabwe to import cement from neighbouring countries because local producers have the capacity to meet the demand, a Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) official has said.
Zimbabwe is currently importing cement from Botswana, South Africa and Zambia.
In an interview with Southern Eye Business on Friday, PPC managing director Njombo Lekula said there was no reason why the country should be importing cement from other countries at the expense of continued viability of local producers.
“I believe that local manufacturers are capable of producing competitive quality and in terms of our industry (cement), Zimbabwe certainly has capacity to meet current demand,’ he said.
“Therefore there is no reason why we should be importing cement from South Africa, Botswana and Zambia at the expense of continued viability of local producers.”
Lekula said the government must protect local manufacturers and there should be enforcement of quality standards for all imported commodities to protect both the Zimbabwean consumer and related industry from competing with cheap inferior products as well as minimising duty free importation of commodities that are or can be manufactured in the country.
He lamented that there was no fair competition between local and foreign players in the manufacturing sector.
“For instance, if you consider the cost of production of the cement industry in Zimbabwe compared to other surrounding economies, then the playing field is not level,” Lekula said.
“The strengthening of the United States dollar versus that of the surrounding currencies poses a real challenge.
“Most of our input costs remain dollar-based, be it Zesa for power, fuel and labour. These are costs that cannot be displaced without affecting other supporting industries within the Zimbabwe economy, therefore it is very important that authorities are careful and supportive about what is allowed through the borders and the impact thereof to the job market in the country.
“For example, for packaging of cement we use a polypropylene bag with a flat bottom and self-sealing valve. Although the local manufactures produce a polypropylene bags, their technology is not capable of supporting this type of bag and they will require extensive investment in their machines to manufacture this in Zimbabwe thus we import it from South Africa.
“Recently, an import duty of 30% has been imposed on this product meaning our packaging cost has risen by that much.
“However on the same token, our competitors in South Africa can export cement in similar packaging into Zimbabwe and the duty levied on the imported product is said to be 5%, now that is far from levelling the playing field,” he added.
Meanwhile, Lekula said PPC Zimbabwe was mooting plans to expand the Bulawayo plant by building a bulk loading facility expected to be commissioned in July.
He said they want to expand the fleet of tankers from 14 to 20 by the end of third quarter.