War between Cement Producers

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New Delhi, Dec 17 (UNI) The tug of war between the government and the cement manufacturers today took a new turn with the latter denying that there was any cartel and blaming the government for the prevailing high prices.

The cement producers also took on the Government for not providing a level playing field with Pakistan manufacturers, saying imports from that country were custom exempt and were priced lower by as much as Rs 600 a tonne.

Addressing a press conference after the 62nd annual meeting of the Cement Manufacturers Association, the association's President H M Bangur said that high prices of cement were not due to super normal profits but high duties imposed by the government. These include excise, royalties and sales tax.

''About 60 per cent of the ex-factory price of cement goes to the government,'' Mr Bangur said.

He also denied cartelisation in the industry saying that there were 55 main cement producers and in each of the regions not more then 20-25 cement companies operate.

There has been much heat and dust between the government and the industry on cartelisation and bringing down of the prices.

While the government has hinted that cement prices remain high due to the existence of a cartel, the industry has vehemently denied the existence of any monopolistic behaviour.

The government has threatened the manufacturers of tough measures to break the cartel and has held several meetings with the cement producers to slash prices.

The governments appeals has fallen on deaf years.

''The price of cement is completely market and logistics driven.

There can be a shortage of cement in a region for a week due to logistics but certainly no cartelisation,'' said Mr Bangur.

He added that the cases before the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) was for them to decide and he found no merit in the cases.

UNI

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