KARACHI: Cement export made a sudden jump during July, the first month of the current fiscal year (2009-10), to 1.160 million tons from 0.838 million tons recorded during June 2009.

According to exporters, there had been around one million tons of exports for the last two years, but during July, the figure crossed the mark, indicating revival of cement demand in the world market.

However, cement export in June 2009 temporarily declined as India stopped providing rail wagons.

According to an understanding, both the countries were to provide train facility on the basis of inter-change which means one rail would go from Pakistan and the other would come from India to carry cement across Wagah border.

Cement export to India by sea route declined to 5,795 tons, but picked up in July and stood at 21,558 tons.

Similarly, export of cement to India by train during June was 38,560 tons but increased to 49,104 tons in July 2009.

Despite the fact that there was some decline in cement consumption by construction industry in India affected by slow economic activity, the on-going construction of Commonwealth games complex somewhat sustained demand of cement, exporters said.

But strong demand for Pakistani cement in Africa and Middle East helped increase exports.

Figures disclosed that around 0.742 million tons of cement was exported during July to African countries, like Sudan, Tanzania and Ethiopia, whereas exports during June 2009 stood lower at 0.504 million tons.

Afghan market has almost become a traditional market for Pakistani cement which started from 2001. During July, around 0.347 million tons of cement was exported to Afghanistan and around 0.289 million tons in June 2009.

Cement exporters have, however, lodged complaints with the government over the issue of two-way trucking.

Exporters said India was not allowing Pakistani trucks to enter their border area whereas on average around 100 trucks from India move into Pakistan daily with goods, such as onion, potato, vegetables and other goods.

The issue of two-way trucking was repeatedly taken up by the private sector with Indian officials and at the private sector trade bodies level, but standard reply had been security reasons from the Indian side.

Amjad Rafi, former KCCI president and a leading cement exporter to India, said if it was security reason, how come train loaded with Pakistani cement moves into their border area.

He alleged it is simply a non-trade barrier case which the government of Pakistan should take up at the highest level with India.

Cement is a non-traditional item. Its export to India began in July 2007. However, the government or for that matter the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) is not responding.

The new trade policy of 2009-10 did announce inland freight subsidy on cement, but so far no action had been taken to implement it, he said.

Mr Rafi said cement exports to India would be there for another year because the Indian industry was expanding their capacity rapidly.

He further stated that Pakistan Railways was also not cooperating and was making high charges of Rs600 per ton for a small distance of 30 km from Lahore to the border area.

The railways, he said, was also not giving sufficient number of wagons and last year only 50,000 tons were carried by them, whereas the industry needs 150,000 tons.

Source: DAWN

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