Move over Arawak Cement Limited, a new Barbadian player is about to enter the local cement mix over the next three months, ending the Trinidad-owned company’s domestic monopoly.
Already boasting of a higher quality product than what currently exists and promising to lower the domestic price for the building material by as much as 30 per cent, a consortium of local construction companies is preparing to pump US$20 million into the sector.
The new company, to be called Rock Hard Cement Limited, will be based at the Flour Mill, just off the Spring Garden Highway.
Principal spokesman for the project Mark Maloney said the state-of-the-art cement manufacturing plant, which has been in the works for ten years now, is to be up and running by April.
“We are at the stage now where we are going to be building a plant at the Flour Mill. We have all the land identified and we are going through the regulatory processes and all that now but, in the interim, we are building a temporary plant [adjacent to the Flour Mill site], which is in construction right now, and we hope to be able to have the cement to market by the end of March, early April,” Maloney said in an exclusive interview with Barbados TODAY, in which he said major equipment was expected on island next week in preparation for stepped-up construction work.
He also assured that the project would not pose any environmental issues for residents living in close proximity to the plant.
“It is a blending plant, so we are blending raw materials and not going through the same manufacturing process as Arawak. You will not have a chimney or any smoke or dust, absolutely none whatsoever.”
While not revealing the names of the other primaries involved in the multi-million dollar project, Maloney, who is the managing director of Preconco Limited, said the investors also had plans to aggressively challenge Arawak’s Trinidad-based parent company for regional market share and were very upbeat about the prospects for earning foreign exchange for Barbados.
“We will be exporting to Trinidad, we will be exporting to all the Eastern Caribbean islands and looking to South America as well. So it is going to be a significant industry for Barbados once it pans out the way that we envision it to,” the businessman said.
He added that Jamaica was down the road, given current restrictions placed on imports in protection of the domestic industry.
The announcement comes amid media reports that the future of the St Lucy-based Arawak Cement plant hangs in the balance with the jobs of the 100 employees said to be on the line, amid debt and other financial restructuring by the Trinidad Cement Limited, whose Barbados revenues have declined significantly over the last four years. The company is now said to be in need of US$50 million to put the entire group back on a sustainable growth path.
Asked about the prospects for job creation in light of these reports, Maloney said “100 jobs on the line is nothing compared to what the cost of cement is doing to the construction industry”.
He went on to express the view that the local cement price was currently more than double what it should be.
“In Barbados right now we pay close to US$225 per tonne for cement whereas the world market is paying in the area of just over US$100 a tonne. So we need to be able to be much more competitive and more in line with world market prices and standards,” Maloney argued, while disclosing that the new price point for Rock Hard Cement Limited would be “somewhere around $160-175 per tonne, which is considerably less than what is being supplied to the industry right now, even in the other islands and Trinidad”.
While pointing out that inconsistency in cement production had been a major bugbear for the construction industry over the years, Maloney said the new cement product would be of better quality “so the industry would be able to use less cement in its manufacturing process”.
“So you would have a double savings. The first, price and then a reduction in the cement,” boasted Maloney, while pointing out that the company’s name implies that its cement would be able to withstand the test of time.
He also revealed that Rock Hard, which will be sourcing its raw materials for production from the world cement giant Holcim, had already been testing its product locally.
“We have been using the cement in our factory at Preconco and up at Caribbean Homes doing the necessary testing and all of the results have been phenomenal. So we are looking forward to it. It is a good opportunity. It is also going to create significant employment and bring in foreign exchange for the country, because we will be exporting cement to the other islands and be based in Barbados,” he said.