KARACHI: Utilising 94.65 percent capacity, the cement industry of Pakistan has despatched 2.261 million tonnes more cement in the first five months of current fiscal year, 13.91 percent higher than the corresponding period of last year, said the All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association (APCMA).Although, the increase recorded in domestic consumption in November 2017 was 9.89 percent, the overall growth of the sector stood at 5.16 percent; as it was negatively impacted by a steep decline in exports that went down by 27.11 percent.In November 2017, mills situated in northern part of the country despatched 2.967 million tonnes cement locally, which is 10.2 percent higher than 2.692 million tonnes local despatches in the same month last year. The local despatches in the southern region rose by 8.4 percent, from 0.578 million tonnes in November 2016 to 0.626 million tonnes in November 2017.Exports from south based mills took a major hit as they went down by 45.4 percent, from 0.129 million tonnes in November 2016 to 0.070 million tonnes in November 2017. Exports from morthern region also decreased by 8 percent to 0.278 million tonnes last month, from 0.350 million tonnes in same month last year.However, the drop in exports continued in the first five months of this fiscal as exports declined by 18.22 percent to 2.079 tonnes, from 2.542 million tonnes during the corresponding period of this fiscal.It was said that the cement industry was worried of the complacency shown by economic planners towards cement sector. The cement sector had so far withstood the impact of decline in exports due to robust growth in the domestic market. However, the current political uncertainty may impact domestic growth as well, said the APCMA, adding that the worries were compounded by the fact that more capacities were expected to be commissioned in next three years, starting from January 2018.While all previous issues raised by cement manufacturers in the last few months have remain unaddressed, increase in duties on coal has increased the cost of production, the APCMA said. The increased consumption of cement does not mean that government imposes duties on its inputs instead of providing relief to the industry which is badly hit by decline in exports, it said, adding that the government should also honour its commitment made to the cement sector that excise duty will be withdrawn in a phased manner. “The government can generate revenue from stopping the smuggling of cement from Iran and under-invoicing as inaction against the culprits is not only disturbing the industry but eating up a major chunk of revenue,” the APCMA added.Published in Daily Times, December 7th 2017.