JIS News

Minister of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce, Phillip Paulwell, announced today (May 16) that Government would allow a three-month waiver of the 15 per cent tariff on cement imported into Jamaica, to meet the current shortfall in the construction sector.
Mr. Paulwell’s announcement is part of the Ministry’s on-going efforts to address the cement shortage currently affecting the island and to ensure a stable price to the sector, as regional shortages have created a spike in the spot market price of the product.
“The duty waiver will be awarded on a case by case basis for specific, time-bound, confirmed orders of cement,” the Minister said.
He urged importers to use this opportunity to seek supplies from near sources adding that he had already spoken to the Minister of Finance and Planning, who has agreed in principle to the three-month waiver.
The Minister gave this undertaking against the background of the shortage of cement in the local market, caused by labour and production difficulties, as well as quality issues at Carib Cement Company, which reduced the flow of the product to the sector.
Following discussions held with the industry early in the year, the import tariff on cement was adjusted downwards by the Government from 40 per cent to 15 per cent in early March. However, importers have reported that efforts to import cement have been stymied, as a result of the regional shortage of the product.
The problem is further exacerbated by increased demand for cement worldwide, and post hurricane disaster rebuilding in the region. Jamaica’s growth in demand is currently at 10 per cent over last year, created by several new construction projects.
At a meeting convened in Kingston today by Minister Paulwell and attended by members of the trade, including the Trinidad Cement Company, Caribbean Cement Company, Mainland International Ltd., Arc Systems Limited, the Hardware Merchants Association and the Incorporated Master Builders Association, it was agreed that there was a back-log in demand of about 60,000 tons of cement, caused by production difficulties at the local plant. With replacement of inventory estimated at a further 40,000 tons, the volume of cement needed immediately to correct the current shortfall now stood at about 100,000 tons.
The meeting also received a report from Dennis Morrison, Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Development, regarding supplies of the product from Cuba. He confirmed that some 72,000 tons would be delivered over the period, June to August 2006, and that shipping logistics were being finalized. Mainland committed to the importation of 40,000 tons, in bags, by mid June, while Caribbean Cement Company also reported that they would seek to maintain production levels of 75,000 to 80,000 tons of cement monthly.
Recognizing that only 3 per cent of world production of cement is traded, the Minister pointed out that Jamaica must meet local demand from its own production.
“The offer of the three-month tariff waiver to assist importers is on the table. I urge all suppliers to commit to sourcing product within 30 days and to complete application for the tariff concession through the Trade Board, to ensure delivery within the three-month time frame,” Minister Paulwell said.

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