Cement backlog to prolong crisis
Manama, June 15, 2008
The backlog of work at construction sites in Bahrain will take at least two weeks to clear, cement importers said yesterday.
Supplies from Saudi Arabia are expected to fully resume today following the intervention of Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
He had instructed authorities on Friday to open the door for sufficient supplies of cement and construction materials.
The Crown Prince also gave his approval to establish new cement factories in non-residential areas and for existing factories to be expanded.
However, sources told the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication, that even if the supplies returned to normal overnight, it would take weeks to get back on schedule.
"The problem is that most construction sites have a big backlog of areas that need concrete so the amount of cement required is huge," said a Delmon Readymix company spokesman.
"It will take us at least two weeks to catch up and that is only if the cement resumes to the same levels as before."
Supplies from Saudi Arabia have been halted under tight new rules imposed as Saudi tries to combat international profiteering on the black market, according to sources.
They were first stopped on June 3, but resumed four days later after the intervention of Deputy Prime Minister Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa and Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Hassan Fakhro, only to stop again last Sunday.
The new regulations require importers to get complicated approvals from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, before their cement trucks are allowed to return to Bahrain.
They were originally due to be imposed from June 16, but importers said they were suddenly brought forward.
Sources said the new rules were enforced by the Saudi authorities following revelations that rogue traders elsewhere were buying Saudi cement at controlled prices, then selling it for huge profits on the black market in their own countries.
Bahrain's construction industry requires between 8,000 and 10,000 tonnes of cement a day and many companies are still struggling to cope with the lack of supplies.
"We have not had any cement for nearly a week now," said another major importer.
"If there is some supply we would like to know where to get it. All my customers are calling me to ask 'where is the cement'?
"We have never gone through a situation like this before. It is not sustainable.
"If we do not have any cement, we cannot do any work and the entire construction industry will grind to a halt."-TradeArabia News Service