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Govt. formally enters cement trade

The Government yesterday made a direct entry into the cement trade by undertaking the task of importing cement after five years aimed at meeting the current demand despite an artificial shortage created by errant traders through hoarding. The first consignment of cement which arrived from Pakistan yesterday was released to the market through the Building Materials Corporation Ltd (BMCL).

Speaking at the ceremony to mark the cement distribution at the BMCL premises, Minister of Trade, Marketing Development, Co-operatives and Consumer Services Bandula Gunawardhana said that the Government intervened to import cement aiming to arrest the current shortage and for the revival of the BMCL .

"We will provide a 50 kg bag of cement at a retail price of Rs. 699 through BMCL branches and Co-operative societies islandwide as a relief measure to the public," Minister said.

Several anti-Government parties attempted to mislead the people by talking of a price hike of essential commodities in the market. They said that the price of cement would reach Rs. 1,000. "But we have been able to refute these allegations by providing cement at a cheaper price of Rs. 699 to the public".

"With the Government's involvement in the cement trade, the price of cement is expected to come down in the open market," he said.

Although the CAA stipulated the maximum retail price for cement bag at Rs. 720, a 50 kg bag of cement is being released to the market at Rs. 699 through the BMCL. "This will create competition for cement in the market," he said.

"The private sector is welcome to sell cement to the public at a lesser price," he said. The BMCL was on the verge of being closed down due to its parlous financial state. The company has not paid its employees' salaries for the last six months, with its involvement in the distribution of imported cement there is expectations of a turn around, the Minister observed.

An agreement has been signed with the company in Pakistan which is a well-known cement manufacturer in the world. It manufactures cement following International standards including SLS standards.

"The demand for cement had increased by 11 per cent in 2007 compared to 2006 in the wake of a construction boom in the country such as the building of bridges, anicuts, etc," he said.

 

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