Cement from Pakistan suspected of being sub-standard
CEMENT manufacturer, Lafarge, is considering approaching the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa to protect the local market from what it says is low-quality, cheap cement imported from Pakistan. The company is concerned that substandard products are being used for large infrastructure projects in the country, which includes the construction of hospitals, government housing, and schools.
Some importers are labelling cement as flour to dodge quality tests and, when the regulators do test imported product, they refuse to disclose the outcome, citing confidentiality. Some cement sellers do not comply with the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, but they have import licences.
There is substantial risk in the use of inferior products and it would be in the interest of all to avoid the sale of such products. The system is based on self-regulation to an extent, and producers and traders need to take the matter seriously.
In 2011 three companies importing from Lucky Cement, which is Pakistan’s biggest exporter of cement, were shut down. Lucky Cement has a production capacity of 7,75-million tons a year, a large portion of which is exported worldwide. There is a possibility that a substantial portion of the 140000 tons of cement that was imported into South Africa in the first quarter of 2012 came from Lucky Cement. However because many foreign companies bring in cement disguised as flour it is not easy to keep accurate import statistics of the product.
There were concerns that cement that lacked strength, as well as underweight packages, are entering South Africa from Pakistan. Random testing on imported products shows that these often do not meet standards. Unfortunately the country’s control systems are not working properly. Importers are supposed to test samples for every 500 tons of cement, but often when the regulator is asked for results it says that they are confidential.