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Carib Cement in Rockfort, Kingston, Jamaica (Photo: Joseph Wellimgton/Jamaica Observer)

Caribbean Cement going big on exports by 2023

Carib Cement in Rockfort, Kingston, Jamaica (Photo: Joseph Wellimgton/Jamaica Observer)

Following the US$30-million (JM$4.7 billion) expansion of its Rockfort plant in 2022, Caribbean Cement Company Limited will be looking to focus its efforts on export markets across the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and North America.

The Jamaican cement company will be embarking on a 30 per cent expansion of its operations to improve its capacity to not only supply the local construction market, but also the foreign markets which desire cement for their infrastructure.

Yago Castro, general manager of Carib Cement, told the Jamaica Observer that the company isn’t currently exporting any cement as the local demand has been taking up all of their production. Castro also has responsibility as head of parent company, Cemex, in The Bahamas.

Yago Castro, general manager, Carib Cement (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

“Basically, we’re making our kiln 30 per cent bigger. After we complete it by the end of next year, we’re going to be able to go up from 1 to 1.4 million tonnes of cement [annually]. We’ll be fully able to supply the Jamaican market, but also generate 20 per cent more or less of spare capacity. Those 200,000 tonnes of cement could be allocated to some export markets. We already have the markets to export, with 25 different options. The endgame is to export more than what is imported,’ Castro said in an interview with Caribbean Business Report.

Carib Cement didn’t export any cement to Caricom last year with its lone export to North America accounting for 1,575 tonnes or JM$23.53 million in sales. In 2020, the company sold 973,433 tonnes of cement to the local market for JM$19.84 billion. Overall, the company produced a record 940,000 tonnes of cement in 2020 and hit a new milestone of 100,000 tonnes for the month of March.

Increased demand for imported cement

Even with the company improving its capacity, several hardware owners in western Jamaica have there has been expressed desire for the cement import capacity to be increased based on the explosive demand in their parishes. Buying House Cement Limited has an annual import quota of 120,000 tonnes of cement, which it sources from the Dominican Republic.

“Basically, we’re making our kiln 30 per cent bigger. After we complete it by the end of next year, we’re going to be able to go up from 1 to 1.4 million tonnes of cement [annually]”

— Yago Castro, general manager, Carib Cement

When questioned about these responses, Castro rebuffed the statements, especially as the company’s kiln was now in operation again and supply chain issues have been smoothed out. Its kiln was shut down for three weeks, which was described as the longest period it has been out of operation for maintenance.

“They present themselves as a solution, but they’re trying to get more cement to sell and make a better profit without investing any money in the country. We always believe it’s better to have the long-term profitability so we can create investment, jobs, and building Jamaica, rather than importing cement for short-term profit. We’ve restarted the kiln and the market is supplied again. There are some times we need to improve the logistics of a micro market and the way we supply it. We’re going to produce above one million tonnes of cement, which is a huge achievement, but we’re not stopping there. We’re investing more to go to 1.3 or 1.4 million tonnes of capacity. There’s always opportunities to improve,” stated Castro.

An aerial view of Carib Cement in Rockfort, Kingston, Jamaica (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The general manager explained that hardware stores and other customers can always make arrangements with the company to buy ahead of time, and arrange credit terms if needed. Apart from the shutdown to facilitate maintenance, the company believes it has the strength to supply the Jamaican market well. The expansion will be done over 2022, with the scheduled shutdown used to do connections as it has done in parallel with normal operations.

“We believe the right way is to invest in local manufacturing and make it bigger, solid, and more powerful. This is why we’ve been increasing our production capacity over the last three to four years. Our team is always working on improving the supply to the market, quality of our products and service. There’s only one way for us and that’s upwards,“ the Cement Company general manager said.