South Africa: Lafarge is considering approaching the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa to protect the local market from what it calls 'low-quality cheap cement' imported from Pakistan. The multinational is concerned that substandard products are being used for large infrastructure projects in the country, including the construction of hospitals, government housing and schools. Some importers are labelling cement as flour to dodge quality tests. Yet when the regulators do test imported product, they refuse to disclose the outcome, citing confidentiality.
"Imports are a concern for several reasons; sometimes the prices are very low, which affects us financially. We are looking at approaching the International Trade Administration Commission of SA to intervene in the market, but no decision has been made," said Lafarge South Africa CEO Thierry Legrand. He added that some cement sellers did not comply with the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, yet had import licences. Other domestic producers including AfriSam and Pretoria Portland Cement have also expressed concern at the situation.
In 2011 three companies importing from Lucky Cement, Pakistan's biggest cement exporter, were shut down. Cement and Concrete Institute (CCI) managing director Bryan Perrie said that 140,000t of cement were imported into South Africa in the first quarter of 2012 and that a substantial portion of it probably came from Lucky Cement. "People have struggled to keep accurate import statistics of cement but we know that Lucky is a major importer. People bring cement in as flour, so the statistics of how much comes in is often incorrect," he said.
Importers in South Africa are supposed to test samples for every 500t of imported cement. Yet when the CCI asked third-party regulators about the results of these checks, they were told this was confidential. The CCI had asked the regulator to publish a list of cement importers online, recording which products had letters of authority, but this has not happened.