In Baghlan, cement price hike forces halt to construction projects
PUL-I-KHUMRI (Pajhwok): Some residents of northern Baghlan province have complained of a sharp hike in prices Ghori Cement prices, with some people stoppingwork on construction projects.
Most contractors have switched to using Pakistani cement, warning if the authorities did not pay attention to resolving the issue, Ghori Cement priceswould eventually outpace the rate of the imported commodity.
Mohammad Asif, a resident of Pul-i-Khumri, the provincial capital, started the construction of his house using Ghori Cement. But the Portland cement producers incredibly spiked the rate of the locally-produced product.
Earlier, a 50-kilogram bag of Ghori Cement sold for 280 afghanis, but the price shot up to 380 afghanis in a matter of only two days, he told Pajhwok Afghan News. Given frequent shortages and an unprecedented price jump, he has halted work on his house.
In the current condition, some building firms, have been forced to use Pakistani cement.Mohammad Nasim, owner of the Mahtab Construction Company, recently opted for using the locally-produced cement on his projects because of its improved quality.
He said there had been an acute shortage of the locally-manufactured cement.As a result, he was left with no option but to start using Pakistani cement -- despite its high price, which recently went up from 400 afghanis to 420 afghanis.
Mohammad Zahir, a dealer in Pul-i-Khumri, said the quality of the locally-produced cement was better than the Pakistani variety. Ghori Cement, according to him, is more adhesive and has higher strength, compared to the Pakistani variety, which mason finds harder to use.
The dealer said demand for cement had considerably increased, but the local factory was unable to meet it and that was why it had jacked up the priceat a time when it could not overcome a lingering shortagein the market.
“If the factory management doesn’t pay attention to the twin problems of stepping up production and reining in prices, Ghori Cement will lose its marketability to the Pakistani product,” he warned.
But Abdul Maroof Sarwari, in charge of Ghor Cement, cited power outagesas the main reason for the declining production. Earlier, the factory produced 1,400 tonnes of cement a day, a level that has come down to less than 400 tonnes.
He quoted Breshan Shirkat (power utility) officials as saying domestic consumption of electricity had shot up and industrial units had to face more load-shedding.
The cement factory was previously supplied eight megawatts (MW) of power, the official recalled. But now the plant has to be content with only 1.5 MW.
Sarwari acknowledged a 50-kg bag of cement previously sold for 270 afghanis, but the rate had to be raised to 300 afghanis due to the falling value of the local currency.
The locally-produced cement is mostly used in northern parts of the country. As the Afghans preferconsuming domestic products, demand for this cement has also gone up in central and southern parts of the country.
Contract for the construction of the first phase of Ghor Cement was inked between Afghanistan and Czechoslovakia in 1961.Initially, the factory produced 200 tonnes of cement -- a level that rose to 400 tonnes in the second phase.
After decades of war, the factory was privatised in 2007 by the Karzai administration. Currently hundreds of people are working for Ghor Cement, whose capacity could be enhanced significantly.
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