The country’s largest block manufacturing company, Bestcrete Ltd, has welcomed news of moves by Government to increase the supply and reduce the price of aggregates.
Prime Minister Patrick Manning made the announcement last Wednesday as he attacked an unidentified “domestic cartel” which he said was responsible for the high cost of aggregates in the country. Manning made the comment at a topping out ceremony on the 22-story high rooftop of the Ministry of Legal Affairs tower at the developing Government Campus on Edward Street, Port-of-Spain.
He said that the Malaysian firm Sunway, the parent company of Sunway (Caribbean) Ltd, the main contractor on the tower, would partner with the Government to manufacture construction materials suited for the entire construction sector. Manning described Sunway as the largest quarrying company in the world.
He added that, “I am not going to allow individuals to capitalise and profiteer just because the market exists.”
Bestcrete’s Kelvin Mahabir said the block manufacturing company is constantly in the market for aggregates and prices have risen “considerably” over the last few years. He said demand has also increased sharply due to the heightened construction activity in the country. He said the shortage has been so keen that Bestcrete, a member of the ANSA Mc AL group, has been forced to import aggregates since last year.
Kelvin Mahabir, Group Sector Head- Manufacturing
Mahabir, who is Sector head—Manufacturing, for the group, said the company has imported from the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Canada and Dominica. He said Bestcrete is even considering getting aggregates from Guyana, or “wherever you can find a source that meets the specification.”
Mahabir said he believed the increasing importation of aggregates is the reason costs have risen so dramatically—shipping adds to costs. However, he also noted that over the last two years the price of locally-produced aggregates had increased to the same level of the imported product.
Mahabir said he does not support the Prime Minister’s view that a cartel is controlling the supply and price of aggregates.
Sienarine Coosal “categorically and unequivocally” denied that his company is a member of any cartel. He added, “Indeed, it does not know of the existence of any such cartel.”
Coosal said there was never any such cartel, telling the Guardian that because of the make-up of the players in the quarry industry, there could never be any such cartel.
Coosal said Manning was “not properly advised” on all the factors which had led to the shortage of aggregates. Coosal, who said his company operates one of the largest quarries in the country, said the quarry sector, which is a billion dollar industry, had been placed on the back burner for the last 25 years and had never received the attention it needed.
He added that after more than 60 years in the quarrying business, Coosal’s had for the first time been forced to import millions of dollars worth of aggregates from Nova Scotia, Canada.
Article by Verne Burnett, Courtesy Trinidad Guardian