A workman at the TCL plant in Claxton Bay.

Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) said yesterday it does not have any plans to increase cement prices in T&T any time soon.

TCL made the statement in a release yesterday as one of its main competitors Rock Hard Cement warned its customers that measures being implemented by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to limit the importation of Portland cement will force an 80 per cent increase in cement prices in the new year.

Rock Hard said these measures mean the company will be unable to open until February 4.

TCL, however, stated it has the capacity to serve the local and export markets.

“We continue to be committed to supporting the local economy and having a positive impact on Trinidad and Tobago in and beyond. Therefore, we want to emphasise that TCL has excess capacity to adequately supply the local market as well as the export market,” TCL stated.

“Please note that TCL has not announced any price increases effective January 1, 2021. We will continue supporting our customers and the public by not increasing our cement prices in the short term,” TCL stated.

TCL reiterated its commitment to continue building a stronger T&T.

The Trade Ministry said it could not comment on the matter as it is currently before the court.

The ministry, however, reassured the population that “it has acted and shall continue to act in the public interest and will continue to review market conditions to ensure both the economic well being of T&T and the welfare of all consumers.”

Vasant Bharath yesterday took the government to task for its handling of the entire situation.

“No investor wants to know that a Government will change the rules on them once the investment is made,” Bharath stated.

“Unfortunately, this is exactly what the Government has done to a local company that has invested several hundred millions of dollars in the cement business. These are sunk costs in storage silos, cement trucks, offloading facilities, staff training, legal costs and marketing and advertising expenditure,” Bharath stated.

Bharath said the government’s decision to unilaterally increase import duties to 50 per cent has effectively created a barrier to entry to any competition in the cement market and put another local company out of business.

“So, in one fell swoop the Government’s action has put more local workers on the breadline, reduced competition and created a monopoly for TCL which will inevitably lead to increased prices to the consumer, dampen construction, which is the engine of growth in any economy and discouraged private investment by small and medium-sized investors,” he stated.