Following the shortage of locally produced cement, more traders are opting for permits to import cement into the country through the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
Cement shortage has seen prices rising to between K9,000 and K10, 000 per 50 kilogramme bag from K6,000 when there is normal supply.
The scarcity of the product has also affected the construction industry as works have stalled.
In an interview on Monday, Ministry of Industry and Trade publicist, Wiskesi Nkombezi, said more traders are applying for cement import permits as a way of addressing the situation.
He confirmed that the ministry has held discussions with players in the cement industry on the matter as well as issued import permits to fill the gap.
“It is not that we had stopped issuing the permits, but because of the scarcity and because the traders do not want to be out of business, they are, therefore, coming in large numbers to apply for the permits. This will assist in making the product available on the market.
“Apart from that , the government is also casting the net wider on sources of supply to make sure that traditional cement sources are not overstretched,” Nkombezi said.
He further said, to control prices on the market; the government will take punitive measures against anyone offering prices higher than the recommended ones in accordance with the provisions of the relevant laws of Malawi.
“We know that some traders have taken advantage of the situation to hike prices. As a permit issuing office, we will be monitoring them and, if we find any trader abusing the permit by offering higher prices, our office will not grant them another permit in future,” he said.
Two weeks ago, The Polytechnic Dean of Built Environment Faculty, Rodrick Chilipunde, noted that the shortage of cement is a very serious problem as its effects will spill over to the economic growth of the country, if not be addressed immediately.
Chilipunde said construction cost will increase and may double within a short time resulting in increased inflation.
“A lot of projects have stalled translating to an increase in unemployment as many labourers will be laid off. Construction firms are likely to close due to lack of productivity, limited money flow to citizens since construction is a major source of income,” he said.
He further said cement contributes 55 percent t o construction works and that the economic growth of a country is mostly measured based on the performance of its construction industry.