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Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Steel group to set up US75mn cement grinding plant

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Steel and Onyx group is investing 75 million US dollars to set up a cement grinding plant in Mirijjawila, Hambantota, officials said.

The plant, when completed in 18 months, would have an annual capacity of 3.6 million metric tonnes, Mangala Yapa, technical advisor to the ministry of international trade and investment, said.

Sri Lanka has an annual cement demand of about 8.5 million metric tonnes of which about 2.8 million tonnes are produced domestically.

The plant will have a convered conveyor from the port to carry clinker, minimising environmental fallout from unloading, Yapa said.

Director General of Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment Champika Malalgoda told reporters no import protection had been promised to the investor.

Ceylon Steel, the main investor of the new cement plant, is now protected by high anti-competitive import duties, so that the firm can make easy profits by restricting competition.

High steel costs have forced a homeless family trying to build a house, a shop owner, office builder, a hotelier and even a factory owner to pay high prices for steel, pushing up construction costs.

High construction costs have contributed to make Sri Lankan services like tourism less competitive compared to free countries in East Asia and also make ordinary people building a house more indebted to banks, critics have said.

Cement had generally been free of import protections as existing companies are owned either by foreigners or minority communities, analysts have pointed out.

In contrast to the anti-competitive protection given to steel and ceramics, cement is under price control. (Colombo/Mar19/2019-SB)