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Rock Hard cement.

One day after Rock Hard Cement (Trinidad) Ltd issued a release advising they would remain closed for one month and cited crippling tax measures imposed by the Government as the reason behind the decision, the Ministry of Trade and Industry says it cannot comment as the matter is before the court.

In a brief release on Saturday, the ministry said, “It is regrettable that the importer has chosen to publish advertisements at the same time that the importer has filed proceedings in the court.”

The ministry reassured the population that, “It has acted and shall continue to act in the public interest and will continue to review market conditions to ensure both the economic well-being of T&T and the welfare of all consumers.”

In the release by Rock Hard Cement (Trinidad) Ltd on January 1, officials warned that due to measures implemented by the ministry to limit the importation of Portland cement, it would lead to an 80 per cent increase in cement prices in the coming year. The company said this and other measures would delay the company’s planned resumption of business on January 4.

They are hoping to reopen by February 1.

One of the other measures they claimed that was being implemented was the Trade Ordinance No 19 of 1958 which states that Portland cement, among various other similar types of hydraulic cement are now on this country’s negative list. The other two, the company said, were legal notices 415 and 416 of the Customs Act which state all tariffs are suspended and there was a 50 per cent increase in duties on Portland cement and other types of hydraulic cement.

Rock Hard said these more stringent measures follow a 35 per cent increase in duties imposed in 2020.

In the release, the company said duties on cement had effectively moved from zero to five per cent and 2021 would see a price increase of 80 per cent. A bag of cement currently costs between $45 and $50.

If the lower cost is used, the price of a bag of cement currently costing $45 will increase to $81.

But, the company said a restriction on the quantity of imported cement could push the price even higher.

They said in addition to the new measures, there was a proposed restriction on cement coming into the country as only 75,000 tonnes of imported cement will be allowed for the year, which represented a very small portion of T&T’s annual supply.

Rock Hard warned that if this restriction is imposed, there would be a major cement shortage leading to a devastating impact on prices and the added threat of a monopoly in the supply of cement.