The cement industry in Oman is facing gigantic challenges due the current economic circumstances and its implications on the construction sector. This is the effect of the pandemic as well as dumping of imported low-quality cement in the local market. Due to these situations, the government spending on constructions has also gone down. These are creating major difficulties for the cement industry and its consequences on the economic returns for the country.
All these circumstances require certain practical steps to be taken to overcome these difficulties. They are also important to protect this industry from the systematic dumping by neighbouring markets with low-quality cement. This is because they would have serious consequences for the movement of construction and building industry in the Sultanate. Not only this, but such dumping may also pose threat to the lives and properties of the people. Therefore, it is a must that laboratory test procedures should be made stricter to be consistent with the specifications applied to the local cement to ensure that they are of high quality.
There is no doubt that the cement industry is the core on which the urban development is being achieved in the Sultanate since last 50 years. The goal of this development is accomplished in all the governorates and wilayats of the Sultanate. Major projects were started in the county and completed such as Muscat International Airport.
Both the public and private sector have made massive investments in this industry to meet the increasing demand over the years. The objective was to meet the foreign and local markets. But the current economic circumstances in the world as well as the health conditions have caused reduction in the demand to its lowest levels. The Sultanate is also part of the same world.
In these circumstances, it is natural that the revenues of these factories are affected adversely. This also has negative implications on the future of the local cement industry leading to difficulties for the construction sector which will be ultimately left on the mercy of the low-quality imports. Therefore, it is a must that the authorities concerned take necessary steps to rescue the cement industry.
This industry applies best standard specifications of the world. It also works on maximising the local added value of its products. It also gives opportunities for the citizens. It utilises local natural resources. If some of such factories have succumbed under the recent difficulties and failed, it is sufficient evidence of the painful conditions being faced by them. They are facing merciless deaths.
At present, the production capacity of the cement industry in the Sultanate is more than 7 million tonnes per year. But the sales are slowly falling due to many factors mentioned above. The neighbouring countries are facing the same challenges and therefore they find space in our market which suit them. They dump all their low-quality products here. This leads to increase in operation costs of our industry. Lack of proper anti-dumping mechanism are causing these issues. This is leading to losses or a decline in the revenues of cement factories of the country.
Surprisingly, the Sultanate imports more than 50 per cent of cement with liberal specifications. This is reflected in the bad quality of buildings in some wilayats of the Sultanate. The Consumer Protection Authority and the courts have received complaints about the poor quality of building materials, particularly cement.
Therefore, more measures should be taken including implementation of quality checks of cement at the entry corridors. It is necessary for the safety of the consumers as well as the quality of construction works. The order regarding quality tests of imported cement at border crossings must be implemented in word and spirit.
The cement imported should be tested and examined as other goods and products. This is also the solution of the challenges being faced by the cement industry in the country.