Cement Price Hike Stirs Concern Among Contractors in Trinidad and Tobago Amid Regulatory Changes

Trinidad Cement Limited

In Trinidad and Tobago, the construction industry faces another challenge as the price of cement increases for the fourth time in two years, marking a more than 30% hike since November 2021. This latest price surge has left contractors in a bind, as they grapple with the financial implications on projects with pre-approved quotations. With a price difference ranging between $3.57TTD and $3.78TTD per bag depending on the cement grade, some contractors may have to reassess costs or absorb the increase themselves.

The Trinidad and Tobago Fair Trade Commission is closely monitoring this recent escalation in cement prices. Notably, the price set by Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) remained stable when faced with competition from the imported cement brand Rock Hard. However, the importation of Rock Hard became more complicated due to COVID-19 lockdowns and regulatory changes. In January 2021, the Ministry of Trade implemented Legal Orders 415 and 416 under the Customs Act, introducing a quota and import licensing regime for building cement. These measures effectively limited imports and increased tariffs, significantly raising the wholesale price of Rock Hard.

TCL, now predominantly owned by Mexican manufacturer Cemex, has been defended for being a local enterprise that employs residents and uses mainly local raw materials. Yet, the company’s dominant position in the market, bolstered by past government subsidies, raises questions about the balance between protecting local industries and ensuring fair competition.

The government’s recent contemplation of adjusting the common external tariff on cement, along with the suspension of the quota and registration system, suggests a recognition of the need for competition in essential markets. This situation underscores the complex interplay between safeguarding local businesses and maintaining an open, competitive market environment that benefits consumers and the broader economy.

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