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26.04.2007 General News

Sell cement at approved price - Kyerematen

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The Government has warned that it would not hesitate to institute price controls to protect the interest of consumers if distributors and retailers continued to sell cement at arbitrarily high prices.

Speaking at a meeting with stakeholders in the industry, Trade and Industry Minister, Mr Alan Kyerematen said although the government would not want to return to the days of price regulation because of the ideals of the market economy, it would have no choice in taking such a drastic action when cheating of consumers persisted.

"Government would not sit by unconcerned for distributors and retailers to take undue advantage of the current cement crisis to exploit users," he said.

He therefore warned distributors and retailers to desist from selling the product at unauthorized prices.

The energy crisis has affected the production of cement, leading to a hike in prices. Diamond Cement, whose production output stands 95,000 to 100,000 tonnes per month slackened by about 10 percent.

GHACEM also had to cut production in line with the request to all industries to cut their energy usage by 25 per cent.

The shortfall in supply has led to a price hike of the product from about ¢60,000 to between ¢75,000 and ¢90,000 per bag.

Mr Kyerematen said the government would set up a committee to look into the activities of cement distributors, especially pricing of the product, and if after a period of time the situation remained unchanged, he would be left with no other alternative than to come up with sanctions against distributors and retailers who might falter.

He appealed to the two cement producers, Ghana Cement (GHACEM) and Diamond Cement Ghana Limited, to have a close relationship with their distributors in order to have a fair idea on how their product was sold since they would be at the receiving end if anything should go wrong in the industry.

Mr Kyerematen said there is no policy banning the importation of cement into the country once the importer can pay the 40 per cent tax that is imposed on it.

He commended GHACEM and Diamond Cement for their decision to look for ways of mining limestone - a major component in cement production - in the country. He said the government would also sponsor research into its production.

The Strategic Director of GHACEM, Dr Dawson Amuah said the company had records of the various limestone sites and it would not hesitate to take advantage of them if the quantity and quality are good.

Dr Amuah said since the inception of the energy crisis, the company had reduced its energy consumption by 25 per cent as ordered by the Electricity Company of Ghana and the Volta River Authority hence their inability to produce the normal quantity.

He added that GHACEM had plans of installing new plants to support its energy production.

Already, GHACEM has installed six diesel generators to produce a total output of 5.1 megawatts of power at its plant at Tema to augment the current shortfall of energy supplies.

The Company has also started taking delivery of imported bagged cement from its sister company in Togo, expecting a total of 40,000 tons, which is equivalent to 800,000 bags to supplement production and supply.

Mr M. Prasad of Diamond Cement said for the past four months the production of cement by the company had dropped by 10 per cent due to the energy crisis. He added that from next month they would install new plants, which would help them produce more than they have been doing for the past two years.

Mr Paa Kwesi Ansong, President of the Ghana Union of Traders Association, called on producers of cement to supply the public with contact numbers by which people could report distributors and retailers who sold the product at exorbitant prices.

Source: GNA

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