The local construction sector is in for a major shakeup in costs as cement prices are set to rise once more warns Executive Chairman of Rock Hard Cement, Mark Maloney.
As a matter of fact Maloney has charged since the Caribbean Court of Justice’s recent rejection of Rock Hard’s application for the removal of the injunction prohibiting Barbados from lowering the tariff on imported cement from 60 per cent to five per cent, Trinidad Cement Limited subsidiary, Arawak Cement, has already increased prices.
“There will be an impact on the country because Arawak Cement has already raised its prices. They have already raised the price of cement to the public of Barbados by $2 per bag,” said Maloney.
Barbados TODAY contacted Arawak Cement’s Marketing Department but when the question of a price increase was posed, the employee abruptly hung up the phone. Further attempts to make contact proved futile. However several construction companies revealed that they were informed of a price increase for Arawak Cement, which will take effect next year. Currently Arawak Cement retails at $15.25 at most hardware stores.
In an interview back in 2016, Maloney said that when Rock Hard entered the local market, cement was being sold at US$220 per tonne, but the price has since fallen to US$160 per tonne.
However the businessman told Barbados TODAY that while his company remains committed to providing “reasonably-priced cement” to Barbados, he could not guarantee that the market will not return to the days of a cement monopoly if things remain the same.
“If Rock Hard Cement is going to be restricted to selling cement in this country that has to have a 60 per cent duty on it in the future, the business will shutdown and Arawak will continue to take advantage of the people of Barbados by inflating prices in a monopoly because they have protective mechanisms in place to stop competition,” he said while arguing that protectionist polices run counter to the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) view on free trade.
“The WTO is about stopping exactly what they [Arawak Cement] is trying to do. The WTO is trying to create a level playing field for people around the world to compete. A non-competitive environment does not help anyone and Arawak Cement has operated in a non-competitive environment from day one. If that is allowed to continue then we will go back to the days when Barbados had the highest price of cement in the world,” Maloney stressed.
There is still some hope for the local importer as the court is required to make a determination on exactly the classification of hydraulic cement the Barbadian company is importing for its local operations. Depending on the determination, Rock Hard could be placed in the protected category, which enjoys lower tariffs. Hydraulic cement is used to stop water and leaks in concrete and masonry structures. It is a type of cement, similar to mortar, that sets extremely fast and hardens after it has been mixed with water.
In the meantime, Maloney told Barbados TODAY that his company is prepared to weather through the market conditions for as long as possible.
“We are going to try to do our best to provide cement at the best possible price. We will work to allow the people of Barbados to benefit from the best quality cement at a price that we can afford to sell it at. The more pressure that comes to us to stop us from doing business, we will have to consider and if it gets to the point that doing business is
too difficult then we may have to stop supplying the Barbados market with cement,” he said.
Maloney made it clear that his company’s record has shown commitment to the Barbadian consumer for the long haul.
“We have helped the public of Barbados in being able to build and to help the economy in the tough times that we are in and we hope to continue,” said the local cement importer.