THE PRINCIPLES of a Caribbean Single Market (CSM) prevents the Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) Group from maintaining cement supplies to Barbados and Trinidad while Jamaica undergoes a severe shortage, says chairman and CEO of GraceKennedy Limited, Douglas Orane.
The Trinidad and Tobago-based TCL Group is the only producer of cement in Caricom. It manufactures the essential building material through its Arawak Cement Company subsidiary in Barbados, Caribbean Cement Company in Jamaica and Trinidad Cement Limited in Trinidad, together had about a 2.3 million tonnes production capacity in March last year.
"If we have been in the CSM, since the first of January, how is it that cement, which is freely available in Barbados and Trinidad, is not flowing here to meet our crisis and particularly if you have one company which owns all three cement plants?" Mr. Orane asked. The head of the Jamaican conglomerate was speaking at a press briefing at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston on Friday.
Caribbean Cement Company's public relations manager Lystra Sharp said the company was producing 3,000 tonnes per day while the market requirement was 4,000 tonnes.
A crisis has emerged in the construction industry as the island was undergoing an unprecedented construction boom which is linked to a handful of major construction projects all under way at the same time. These projects have been prioritised for cement supplies, resulting in a cumulative shortfall of 250,000 tonnes.
MASSIVE JOB LOSSES
This shortfall has caused massive job losses and severe economic hardship.
"What is of great concern is that we don't see a short term end to this and it is having an effect on many sectors throughout the society which is going to affect Jamaica's growth," Mr. Orane said.
This has had a negative impact on GraceKennedy's Hardware & Lumber results for the first quarter ended March 31, with April and May showing a similar pattern.
Hardware & Lumber operates Jamaica's islandwide network of outlets for hardware and agricultural supplies.
"The way the single market works is, if you have a shortage of cement in Manchester, then cement should come from St. Elizabeth and Trelawny to fill the gap," he said. But, "We don't see it occurring."
The TCL Group should be delivering cement equally within the market so that it is distributed equitably to all the territories, Mr. Orane stated.
TCL Group's website stated that its Trinidad plant has the capacity to meet twice the local demand in Trinidad.
But a global construction boom has diverted supplies away from the Caribbean at the same time that regional demand has also grown. The result is that some cement is already being diverted within Caricom to meet regional needs.
In January, TCL agreed to provide on average 4, 000 tonnes of cement each month to the Antigua and Barbuda market as part of its construction needs. The TCL Group is also completing a US$9 million bagging terminal to supply the Guyana market which experienced a sharp increase in cement prices due to a shortage there.
This offers an opportunity for GraceKennedy to start importing cement, Mr. Orane said. While withholding details, he said suppliers have been contacted, "To find ways to get cement into this market as quickly as possible."