Cement prices increase, contractors warn of increased building costs

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Two men mixing cement in St James. TCL says the latest price increase in cement will take effect on February 19. – FILE PHOTO

President of the TT Contractors Association (TTCA) Glenn Mahabirsingh described the announcement of yet another price increase for cement by the country’s sole cement supplier, TCL, as sudden and untimely.

On Monday, TCL issued an announcement to hardware stores, saying that prices will increase by about three dollars a sack, effective from February 19, marking an increase of more than $14 since 2021.

“It is not the ideal time for any price increase given the importance of cement in construction,” Mahabirsingh said in a phone conversation with Newsday.

“This price increase will put further inflationary pressure on the sector.”

The ex-factory price of a 42.5 kg sack of eco cement – the price before it is taken from the factory to the hardware stores – will go up from $49.10 to $52.88 VAT inclusive, while prices for premium plus cement will increase from $53.81 to $57.38.

This is the fourth time in as many years that TCL has increased its prices. In 2021, a bag of 42.5kg eco cement cost $38.85. In December of that year, TCL raised prices by eight per cent to $43.71 VAT inclusive. It also raised premium cement by 15 per cent to $46.56 VAT inclusive.

The price increase resulted in the exit of the Rock Hard Cement company from the local market. The company had been struggling with import duties and absorbing rising input costs.

Contractors Association president Glenn Mahabirsingh –

In August 2022, prices went up by $2.08 for eco cement, raising it to $43.65 and $3.54 to $47.83 for premium cement.

Prices went up yet again in March last year, from $43.65 to $49.10 for eco cement and from $47.83 to $53.81 for premium cement.

Mahabirsingh said the price increase would be almost immediate as the demand for cement is high, and the capacity to store it is low.

“Cement has a short shelf-life. You can’t buy it and store it so you have to utilise it. So purchasing for the medium and long term storage is impossible,” he said.

“Hardware stores are really retailers so they may pass the increase on to the customers. Contractors who have projects ongoing may be required to absorb some of the costs and approach the client for the compensation for the increase.

“The question is does the consumer have the necessary budget allowance to facilitate it? There may be some negotiation that may need to take place.”

TCL told hardware stores on Monday that the decision to increase prices was “unavoidable” in light of continuous inflation affecting the industry.

“(This decision is) in order to cope with the escalating costs of natural gas, raw materials, spare parts and other essential inputs which have risen significantly in the past year,” TCL said.

TCL cement prices are set to increase on February 19. –

“TCL appreciates the support and loyalty of our customers and remains fully committed to delivering the best quality cement and creating value for TT (through) the generation of foreign exchange through our exports, providing direct and indirect employment and working towards preserving our environment.”

In 2021, Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon announced that upon learning of TCL’s increase that year, Government took the decision to approach the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), the body responsible for the promotion of trade in Caricom, to reduce the Common External Tariff (CET) on hydraulic and other cement from 50 per cent to 20 per cent.

In December last year, COTED approved the suspension of the CET to increase the rate of duty on cement to 20 per cent, based on information provided by Gopee-Scoon, who held consultations with the TTCA, the TT Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) and the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce (TTCIC).