Construction sector decries shortage of cement

Local cement manufacturer, CIMERWA, on Monday announced standard cement prices that the general public must not go beyond in a bid to contain the recent high prices set by speculative traders amidst the current shortage of cement on the local market.

The ongoing scarcity of locally manufactured cement is mainly driven by CIMERWA’s current quest to satisfy an urgent supply tender from the Ministry of Education which a few weeks ago embarked on a nationwide project to construct more than 20,000 classrooms in the country.

 

These classrooms are supposed to be completed by September, when the academic year is supposed to commence.

 

Players in the construction sector claim the shortage of cement resulted in the sharp rise in market prices to Rwf13,000 from Rwf8,500.

 

According to CIMERWA, the final retail price for each of their three cement products; Rwf8,800 for Surewall, Rwf9,800 for Surecem and Rwf`10,800 for Surebuild.

Though the cement manufacturer has expressed their displeasure at the fact that traders are selling cement at speculative prices as high as between Rwf12,000 and Rwf13,000, it has a task to increase the volumes of production to address the shortage which has left a number of hardware shops in Kigali with empty stock.

“We realized that some traders are increasing prices as they please during this cement shortage but we don’t want the public to buy at a price that is higher than our standard price,” said a CIMERWA official in a telephone interview.

Construction workers on duties in Kigali (Sam, Ngendahimana)

Following the recent shortage of cement, the manufacturer’s management recently told The New Times that they are working hard to satisfy demand, while also engaging the relevant stakeholders to explore ways to diffuse the demand-supply deficit in the marketplace.

The shortage is affecting the construction sector whereby a big number of construction projects were either put on hold or seen budgets on construction projects going significantly up.

“Cement prices have gone crazy because CIMERWA can’t satisfy the cement supply. Sometimes we miss out on cement, sometimes we buy it at high prices. It’s really terrible,” said a resident in Gasabo District who is operating construction works on his house.

The shortage of cement in the country was made worse by the constraints brought about by the existing measures in place to fight Covid-19, according to Andrew Bitwayiki, the chairperson of Nine United Transporters, a local freight transport company.

“The situation is beyond our control because we cannot satisfy the market in a situation where we can’t import higher volumes of cement as we used to because the covid-19 testing is delaying imports of cement,” he added.

Bitwayiki is however optimistic that the construction could soon normalize as soon as the government is done with the construction of new classrooms, with the academic year set to open in September.

Gentil Kangabo, the chairman of Rwanda Engineers Council, told The New Times that a lot of construction projects have suspended operations due to shortage of cement on the market and that is affecting the business in the construction sector in general.

“We are at a stage where there is a shortage of cement regardless of prices it may cost. A lot of construction projects have suspended operations and others have revised their budgets due to the current price hikes. This is affecting the construction business in general,” Kangabo claimed.

Kangabo suggests the durable solution to the shortage of cement in Rwanda will only materialize if more investors put their money investing in cement production to supplement CIMERWA.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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