Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
THE country’s largest cement manufacturer, PPC Zimbabwe, has said the market has no reason to engage in panic buying of cement and advised retailers to act responsibly in pricing the commodity to avoid distorting the market.
PPC Managing director, Mr Kelibone Masiyane, said the perceived shortage was temporary and attributed this to annual maintenance works at its plants.
Responding to widespread public panic that gripped the construction industry in the last two weeks and resulted in a sharp increase in cement prices as dealers capitalised on speculation, PPC said the country has sufficient capacity to meet all domestic cement needs.
Mr Masiyane further noted that as the major cement producer, the firm has not increased its prices and urged dealers to exercise restraint on pricing.
“PPC wishes to inform customers and other stakeholders that the current cement shortage is temporary. The cement industry in the country has the capacity to produce over two million tonnes of cement per annum, adequate to satisfy the current market demand estimated at 1,3 million tons,” he said.
“With regards to escalated cement prices in the market, PPC Zimbabwe can assure customers and other stakeholders that our factory prices have not increased since April 2012 in support of the country’s developmental objectives.
“As a company, we appeal to our customers to avoid panic buying as this is likely to compound the situation. We are continuously engaging our retailers to act responsibly with regards to cement pricing in the market.
“We further advise customers to procure their cement requirements from our approved stockists.”
PPC said it would not speculate about other industry players but stressed that its factories have the ability to supply the existing market with quality products.
In that regard, Mr Masiyane said, PPC Zimbabwe was currently operating at peak capacity utilisation following the recent planned annual kiln maintenance undertaken at its Colleen Bawn factory in preparation for the increased demand anticipated towards the latter part of the year.
PPC has another giant plant on the outskirts of Bulawayo. As such, Mr Masiyane said, the firm remains committed to supporting Government’s infrastructure development programme and serving its loyal customers. The annual maintenance has achieved its objectives of unlocking efficiencies and optimising production, he added.
“As a reflection of our continued commitment to Zimbabwe, we commissioned a US$85 million Harare milling plant in March 2017 in anticipation of an upsurge in cement demand.
“This investment has allowed us to fully serve the growing northern market of Zimbabwe better and more efficiently,” said Mr Masiyane.
“PPC Zimbabwe has implemented various initiatives to mitigate the liquidity situation in the country.
“These initiatives include exporting two percent of our production capacity to neighbouring countries, and local sourcing of input materials to ensure that the domestic cement supply is not compromised.”
The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), an umbrella body for the manufacturing sector in the country, had also acknowledged the shortage and linked it to a technical fault at both PPC and Lafarge.
Gweru-based Sino Zimbabwe Cement had also said their operations were normal and ruled out any fundamental changes in the macro-economic climate.
The temporary shortage of cement has greatly upset the construction sector and shocked the market at large. The few outlets that have the product are reportedly selling it at double the original price.
Most hardware stores that normally sell cement have run out of stock, while prices had increased to between $15 and $20 a bag compared to the recommended retail prices averaging $11.50 for PC and $10 for masonry.