High prices of cement pinch buyers
Despite the state having four major cement manufacturing plants, the rise in cement prices has become a cause of concern. Figures collected from the market revealed that the cement price had gone up from Rs 325 to Rs 385 per bag this year, which was much higher than the price in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana. In Punjab, the cement rates for various variants vary from Rs 265 to Rs 275 per bag. The government has failed to take any steps to cut the prices and the steep hike up to Rs 60 indicate how they companies are having a free run. An increase of Rs 15 to Rs 20 has been imposed in one go by manufacturers.
Major cement companies like the ACC, Ambuja Cements Limited, Ultratech and CCI were operational in the state. Inquires revealed that due to a decline in demand in the recent years, units were unable to utilise their entire manufacturing capacities. A major cement plant was able to use only 65 per cent of its capacity in 2017, which was an indication of its steep decline in the sales.
Industries Minister Bikram Thakur, in respond to a question on high cement rates in the VidhanSabha, had said higher freight, imposition of state-level levies like Certain Goods Carried by Road (CGCR)Tax, Additional Goods Tax (AGT) and presence of less manufacturing plants were the key reasons for the rise in prices. He had also stated that the state government had been convening meetings with the manufacturers from time to time to slash the prices.
The CGCR and the AGT are not new levies as they were imposed several years ago. Even the higher freight charges cannot justify the steep rise in the cement prices as the freight in the state is high as compared to the other states.