Smugglers could exploit goodwill

Cement rackets could hamper the Lebanon rebuild as firms enter into talks to reduce the price-per-tonne

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By  Angela Giuffrida Published  September 23, 2006

Cement producers in Lebanon want assurance from the government that any agreement to cut the price of cement will not deviate from the primary aim of reducing the cost of the country’s reconstruction effort. Ciment de Sibline – Lebanon’s third-largest cement producer – is in talks with the government about reducing the price per tonne of cement by US $10 (LBP15,000) for a period of one year. But general manager, Nicolas Nahhas, has warned that those smuggling cement into Syria could exploit the move. “Smuggling to us is a sale – we’re not giving the discount for any cement that is exported. On the contrary, we don’t want to give a discount for the rebuild only for the smuggler to benefit,” he said. “In order for this move to be successful, measures need to be taken to ensure that it is appreciated in its true value – which is to contribute towards the rebuilding of Lebanon, that it is going to be for one year, and then we will go back to normal practice – this needs to be clearly understood by all participants.” Nahhas added that although the move would have a big impact on business in general, it would go a long way in helping to stabilise the economy. “It’s going to have a big impact on us, but it is a contribution. Triggering economic growth is more important than anything else.” Two other producers, Switzerland-based Holcim and Cimenterie National, have also agreed in principle to reducing the price per tonne of cement from $75 to $65. These companies, and Ciment de Sibline, produce around five million tonnes of cement between them each year, a large bulk of which is exported to Iraq and Syria. Lebanon’s cement industry was beginning to rebound from a period of decline just before the 34-day bombing campaign by Israel.

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