JIS News

Minister of Commerce, Science and Technology, Phillip Paulwell revealed yesterday (March 14), that since the tariff on cement was reduced to 15 per cent last week, the Trade Board has advised that based on applications received, some 36,000 tonnes of cement were expected in the island during the next couple of weeks.
Making the disclosure in the House of Representatives, Mr. Paulwell said it was his estimation that by the end of this week, “we should see applications totalling over 100,000 tonnes”.
The Minister was responding to concerns raised by Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Audley Shaw, about the current cement shortage in the island and the reported sub-standard batch of cement that was on the market last month.
He explained that based on tests conducted by the Bureau of Standards Jamaica on a number of packaged cement that was produced during the period, the government had instructed the Caribbean Cement Company to withdraw all of the cement in that 500-tonne batch. Mr. Paulwell noted that most of this cement would have been used by now and therefore, a system of checks would be done to verify claims and full compensation provided by the Cement Company.
“We are endeavouring to ensure that in relation to the issue of quality and safety, that all steps are taken to protect consumers, and the construction company. In every step of the way, the Bureau has been involved in the supervision process,” he told the House.
For other production, Mr. Paulwell said the Bureau had done checks and found the cement to be “wholesome”. “But we believe that in the interest of the consumer, the production with that difficulty between February 23 to February 25 should be withdrawn and persons adequately compensated,” he emphasized.
Commenting on the shortage, the Minister pointed out that there was an international problem and that it was not only Jamaica that was being affected, but the region in general. He informed that an application would be made to the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) for a reduction of the Common External Tariff (CET) on cement to facilitate more imports into the region because, “there is a difficulty at this time, driven largely by the international demand for cement, and the general shortage of cement worldwide”.
Mr. Paulwell said he was confident that with the measures that had been implemented, based on consultation and careful supervision, “we are going to be able to, very shortly, overcome the shortage and the current difficulty and ensure that we have adequate supplies in the marketplace”.
Last week, the government introduced a waiver on the 25.83 per cent duty on imported cement, allowing importers to take advantage of the CARICOM common external tariff rate of 15 per cent, which is applicable on cement imports up to August 30.
To benefit from the waiver, importers must possess concession letters, which will be issued by the Finance and Planning Ministry. To assist with the process, the Trade Board has been designated to accept all applications and to make the appropriate recommendations to the Ministry of Finance.
All importers will be required to have a confirmed commitment from the overseas supplier, and establish that the proposed imports meet the country’s mandatory quality specifications as set out by the Bureau of Standards Jamaica.
Meanwhile, a review committee is being formed by the Trade Board to monitor cement production and will include representatives from the Ministries of Commerce, Science and Technology; Industry and Tourism; Finance and Planning; the Master Builders Association; the Consumer Affairs Commission; and the Customs Department.
The interim regime follows extensive consultation with Caribbean Cement Company Limited and the construction industry, through the Incorporated Master Builders Association, in which it was agreed that a policy intervention was necessary to address the needs of the construction industry and consumers in general.