Domestic cement dispatches have declined in first six months of FY18-19 by 1.41 percent as compared to same period last year which is the first ever such instance in last nine years.However, surge in exports by a whopping 48.01 percent in first six months of this fiscal compared to last year increased the total depatches by 3.94 percent. Spokesman of All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association (APCMA) said that exports are only a minor part of cement sales as out of total cement sales of 23.11 million tons in the first six months of this fiscal, domestic sales accounted for over 19.557 million tons. This is the reason when domestic cement despatches decline cement manufacturers, who have installed cement capacity of over 54 million tons, get very concerned as their survival is linked to domestic sales.He said another worrying aspect in this regard is that the decline in domestic cement consumption is more pronounced in the Northern region of the country where most of the capacities are installed. He said domestic cement consumption in the North declined by 5.95 percent in the first six months of this fiscal from 16.455 million tons in July-Dec 2017 to 15.475 million tons in July-Dec 2018. In contrast, he added, that the cement consumption in South increased by 20.72 percent from 3.382 million tons in first six months of FY17-18 to 4.082 million tons this fiscal. The South based mills saw a whopping increase of 242.83 percent in exports from 0.608 million tons in July-Dec 2017 to 2.084 million tons in July-Dec 2018. Exports however declined in the North by 17.89 percent from 1.797 million tons in July-Dec 2017 to 1.476 million tons in July-Dec 2018. In December 2018 the cement industry despatched 3.865 million tons of cement that was 3.63 percent more than 3.729 million tons of cement despatched during the corresponding month of last year. Total domestic despatches in the month fell from 3.403 million tons in December 2017 to 3.274 million tons last month, depicting a decrease of 3.77 percent. However, exports continued to grow and rose by a whopping 80.75 percent from 0.327 million tons in December 2017 to 0.594 million tons in December 2018.He said the thumping increase in exports have proved that the Pakistani cement industry is globally competitive and the industry can earn precious foreign exchange for the country with government support. He expressed the hope that the government would consider to start development projects to boost domestic cement consumption and employment in the construction sector. Published in Daily Times, January 5th 2019.