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Jamaica, Dominican Republic lock horns over cement

Published:Sunday | May 15, 2011 | 5:00 AM
Shipments of Carib cement are being held in the Dominican Republic. Industry and Commerce Minister Karl Samuda has given a 48-hour ultimatum for the cement to be released. - File

Mark Titus, Business Writer

UP TO late yesterday, there was no clear indication on how authorities in the Dominican Republic (DR) would react to a 48-hour deadline given by the Government of Jamaica on Friday for the release of a shipment of Jamaican cement valued at some US$250,000. The cement has been held in that country since mid-April.

Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Karl Samuda issued the timeline for the cargo in an effort to end a stand-off between cement producers in the DR and the Kingston-based Carib Cement Company Limited (CCCL), which began selling its product to the Spanish-speaking country last month. The Dominican Producers Association of Portland Cement (DPAPC) has charged, however, that CCCL has not complied with all the quality standards requirements of that country.

"What we have been witnessing over the past 15 days is a classic case of the application of non-tariff barriers within the region," Samuda said at a press conference at his office on Friday.

Standards satisfied

He further argued that the DR standards body, DIGENOR, had tested the product and was satisfied that the cement had met all the integrity and quality requirements, issuing a certificate of conformity as a result.

Samuda said he would not hesitate to use the authority vested in his office to protect the interests of Jamaican producers whose business is legitimate and honest. "In these circumstances, we have found that CCCL has complied with all the requirements necessary to export their products to the Dominican Republic, and indeed, anywhere else," Samuda asserted.

Regulations breach

The minister was responding to a letter from the DPAPC maintaining that the cement from Jamaica entered the country in breach of several regulations and procedures required for the production, import, and marketing of the product.

It claimed that DIGENOR ignored the country's importation rules by authorising the product's entry, and that it did so using authority it did not have.

The association claims that one of the violations is highlighted by the trading of the product without the proper licence, and charges that DIGENOR granted an illegal certification.

The association claims that Carib Cement used the Dominican Republic Quality Stamp, printed on the imported cement bags, without any previous evaluation and approval from the National Committee of Standards and Systems.

In its letter, the DPAPC says it is not against competition in its local market, but insists that competition must be within the guidelines of the rule of law.