Cement prices up today in T&T

(Trinidad Express) Cement prices are going up from today.

Claxton Bay producer Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) yesterday announced a 9.5 per cent increase in the price of its Premium Plus Cement.

The price hike takes effect today.

It means that the price of a 42.5 kg bag of Premium Plus Cement will increase from between $50 and $54 a bag to between $54 and $59.

In a statement last evening, the company reminded that it had announced last July that a review of prices would be conducted during the last quarter of 2012.

“The decision was therefore predicated on this analysis, which confirmed an increase in operating costs, specifically in the areas of energy, packaging and spares for which TCL as a price taker has no control,” the company stated.

TCL stated that it was currently unable to further absorb these escalating prices in spite of improved operational efficiencies.

The company stated that its most recent price adjustment was in August 2012, when it rolled back its price by removing a temporary $13 surcharge, which it was forced to place on the price of a 42.5 kg bag during its industrial relations impasse.

On February 27 last year, the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU), representing TCL workers, served strike notice on the company, following a breakdown in wage negotiations.

The workers walked off the job and erected a strike camp outside TCL’s compounds at Claxton Bay and Mayo.

And despite several attempts to settle the matter during the 90-day period, no agreement was reached.

Minister of Labour Errol Mc Leod referred the matter to the Industrial Court for final determination and 92 days later TCL opened its gates to employees.

During the strike, the price of a bag of cement went from an average of $50 a bag to close to $100 on the black market.

Last January, TCL stated that a marginal increase of eight per cent was applied to its Premium Plus brand, prior to which, the company maintained a stable pricing regime for almost four years.

Contractors and builders said yesterday the latest price increase by TCL would make to cost of construction more expensive.

President of the Trinidad and Tobago Contractors Association Mervyn Chin told the Express by phone that consumers would have to pay more to get houses built.

He said the increase would add another $200 to the price of cement needed for construction of a new, smaller home.

He questioned the reasons behind TCL’s price hike, especially at a time when “things were tight” financially for the business sector.

Chin noted that there were only a few projects such as the building of new Housing Development Corporation houses, construction projects and a few schools which would boost the construction industry in the short term, although larger Government projects are planned for later this year.

The Coosal’s Group of Companies, one of the country’s largest construction companies, also responded to the Premium Plus price increase yesterday.

In a statement to the Express, Coosal’s said TCL increased the price by “giving just one day’s notice to its industrial users”.

“A price increase of 9.5 per cent in cement, it being the most expensive constituent of concrete products…triggers an immediate increase estimated at 20 per cent in the cost of concrete and other masonry products in key downstream industries,” the group said, adding that it would have the difficult task of having to face an “irate public who faced a similar in price just one year ago, followed by huge increases during the recent period of the cement shortage”.

Coosal’s said that TCL should be required to justify another price increase, especially “at this time where the economy is just about ti turn around following the initiatives by the government”.

The company called on Trade Minister Vasant Bharath to remove the tariff on imported cement and said it was distressed to have to increase the prices of concrete products again because of the TCL action.

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