South African Cement Producers Apply For Protection Against Imports

South African Cement Producers Apply For Protection Against Imports

The Concrete Institute (TCI) has on behalf of the South African cement producers applied to the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) of South Africa to investigate the surge of imports of low-priced cement.

TCI has lodged the application on behalf of AfriSam, Dangote Cement SA, Lafarge Industries South Africa, Natal Portland Cement Company, and PPC.

Bryan Perrie, TCI Managing Director, says imported cement is undercutting the industry by at least 45%. When this is combined with unprecedented low levels of demand due to slowed economic growth, the industry is facing a survival crisis which threatens to undermine the industrial capacity of the country. “The cement industry has no option but to request ITAC to conduct a safeguard investigation to determine whether the cement industry requires protection from the surge in imports,” he states.

Bryan Perrie, MD of The Concrete Institute

Perrie says South Africa has become a net importer of cement with total imports increasing by 139% since 2016 which makes trade remedy protection vital to ensure the viability of the cement industry. “Local producers have the capacity to meet the Southern African Customs Union’s industrial demand and must protect employment, Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BEEE) investments and Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) requirements. The SA cement industry needs to compete on a level playing field and not against a surge of low-priced imports,” Perrie asserts.

The South African cement industry is very competitive. The cement, concrete and affiliated industries employ thousands of South Africans whose jobs would be on the line if local cement production is not protected. Importantly, several producers have significant B-BBEE investments that are at stake.”

In addition to the surge in low-priced imports, a “carbon tax” was introduced in June 2019 on the South African cement industry’s activities that has increased the industry’s production cost. The effect of this tax translates into a 2% increase in selling prices, putting the local cement industry at a further disadvantage against imports. 

Local pricing reflects the standards (technical, social and environmental) that have been determined by South Africa as necessary for local manufacturing. SA cement manufacturing processes are regulated, from environmental impact assessments to strict quality controls, and from labour and employment regulations to sustainability requirements and South Africa is a signatory of the Paris Accord on CO2 emissions.

In support of the application, TCI has outlined that:  

  • A total of 350 441 tons of cement arrived in RSA during the second quarter of 2019 – the most since the third quarter of 2015; 

  • Most of the cement landed at Durban. The 260 909 tons that arrived there is an 85% increase on the first quarter of this year;

  • Imports from Vietnam totalled 301 872 tons;

  • Imports have exceeded exports by over 50 000 tons during the past year;

  • Total imports increased by 139% since 2016;

  • Employment in the industry increased by less than 0.5%; and

  • South Africa represents roughly 1% of total exports from Vietnam, for example, where exports have increased by 50% in the first half of 2018 to 15 million tons according to information provided by Global Cement. 

Perrie feels the South African economy is at a crossroad where trade policy determinations will play a critical role in determining the industrial direction of the country. “The key to future growth lies in achieving greater efficiencies within the country’s relevant manufacturing sectors. The cement industry must compete on a level playing field and not be scrambling to survive against low priced imports. The sector needs space to grow, which a successful ITAC application would provide,” he states.

Ideal – and essential: Introduction to Concrete

Ideal – and essential: Introduction to Concrete

The Concrete Institute’s School of Concrete Technology will this year again present a basic – but “absolutely essential” – training course in concrete technology for diverse operational levels in the construction sector.

John Roxburgh, senior lecturer at the School of Concrete Technology in Midrand, says the aptly-named two-day Introduction to Concrete course is suitable not only for emerging and new building contractors, small or medium-sized enterprises, but also for any newcomer to concrete-related work responsibilities.

John Roxburgh, senior lecturer at the School of Concrete Technology

For a start, sales and laboratory staff as well as site employees will greatly benefit from the SCT 10 Introduction to Concrete course. The training – augmented by laboratory sessions with hands-on experience – deals with essential elements of concrete operations such as getting the basics right and knowing why certain procedures and practices are required. This is essential background knowledge for anyone planning careers in concrete and concrete-related industries,” Roxburgh states. “In fact, even the most junior staff in companies in the cement and concrete sectors should be armed with the knowledge this course offers.”

He says the increasing number of emerging building contractors now entering the construction industry will also greatly benefit from the Introduction to Concrete training. “Concrete plays a major role on any construction site and needs to be placed and finished off correctly for any contract to be successful and a new company’s reputation to be established. Unfortunately, many newcomers to the construction industry tend to think that making suitable concrete is merely a matter of mixing some sand, stone and water with a bag of cement. There is far more to producing sustainable concrete than such basic knowledge.”

Roxburgh says the Introduction to Concrete course will give emerging contractors and other key players in the construction industry important information to edge out competition. “It is a course that covers all essential aspects such as the basics of materials for concrete, batching and mixing of concrete, and the necessary requirements for transporting, placing, compacting, and protecting as well as curing of concrete.”

Also included in the course are topics such as:

  • Properties of concrete;

  • Receiving and storing materials;

  • Testing of concrete;

  • Finishing and surface preparation;

  • Formwork and reinforcement;

  • Sand-cement mixes; and

  • Durability of concrete.

    The correct method of curing concrete forms part of the training in the School of Concrete Technology’s Introduction to Concrete course

For emerging contractors, an additional benefit is that one of the School of Concrete Technology’s experienced lecturers, Matthews Magwaza, can explain concrete concepts in five South African languages,” Roxburgh adds. “Our total offering for all levels of competency explains why the School has for many decades been the most respected provider of concrete technology education in South Africa.”

More details on the SCT10 course and other more advanced training from the School of Concrete Technology planned for Midrand, Cape Town and Durban this year are contained in the SCT 2019 Education Programme which can be obtained by phoning 011 315 0300 or email sct@theconcreteinstitute.org.za or visiting www.theconcreteinstitute.org.za.

First-ever industry-wide Conference unites concrete industry

Richard Tomes, Chairman of The Concrete Institute, underpinned the value of cooperation between professional bodies in the concrete and related industries

First-ever industry-wide Conference unites concrete industry

South Africa’s concrete organisations have emerged from a first-ever, industry-wide conference united and better equipped to deal with challenges facing the concrete and construction sectors.

This is according to organiser, Johan van Wyk, of the Southern Africa Readymix Association (Sarma), co-host of the event along with the Concrete Manufacturers Association (CMA), The Concrete Institute (TCI) and the Concrete Society of Southern Africa (CSSA). He adds that the conference also served to unite concrete industry role players with the broader construction and civil engineering industry.

In future, we need all professional bodies in the construction sector to work together for the greater good of the industry. That is why we included professional bodies from the civil and consulting engineering fraternity, contractors, cement producers, builders and other role players to address challenges and form opinions on the way forward amidst challenging times.”

Tough times

With the construction industry suffering the effects of a lack-lustre economy and failing business confidence, trends suggest that the construction industry will remain under pressure for the foreseeable future. Political uncertainty has recently also led to a number of construction projects either being cancelled or postponed until political and business confidence returns to the market.

As a result, there is fiercer competition within the entire construction supply chain which can lead to healthy competition, but also may lead to price cutting that may result in a lesser focus on quality of materials and workmanship. Without proper checks and balances throughout the industry the leaning towards substandard practices needs to be avoided at all costs.

The conference, sponsored by Afrisam, Sephaku, PPC and Lafarge, therefore cut to the heart of many of the issues and raised concerns among the multi-disciplinary audience. Further, it focused on excellence by highlighting award-winning project through in-depth technical case studies. These proved that even in the face of tough economic conditions, innovation and design excellence can overcome challenges and lead to the construction of noteworthy concrete landmarks.

High performance concrete

Concrete is by far the most commonly used building material on earth and is the binding ingredient that runs through all of our industries. Quality concrete used in the right applications is essential for construction and it is vitally important that all professionals are kept abreast of developments in concrete.

Rapid urbanisation is driving the development of new concrete material and techniques to allow ever-faster construction of larger, taller and more complex structures. At the same time challenges are emerging because of skills shortages and cost pressures, which places stress on the entire industry, from the cement producers, to the concrete manufacturers, contractors and engineers.

The timing of the conference was therefore perfect and these role-players the opportunity to communicate and network, while also using this platform to share best practices. Without industry-wide cooperation we cannot hope to successfully meet these challenges. I imagine that this is the reason why the conference was able to attract over 300 professionals from a diverse array of backgrounds,” says Van Wyk.

Flourishing together

Chairman of TCI, Richard Tomes, also suggested that the theme of the conference, “unlocking high-performance concrete” was particularly relevant this year as unless companies continue to advance standards, we will eventually see how our infrastructure begins to fail.

Each company, in each sector of the construction industry, must therefore do their bit to uphold quality and to speak out where it is not being advanced. “My challenge to you as civil society is therefore, to self-govern and work together to do things right in order to flourish together.

We must therefore ensure we gravitate towards quality to uphold and support professional bodies that act in the interest of the industry and ensures that users are protected. The professional bodies in concrete, as well as broader construction organisations have a role to play in self-regulating, testing and furthering transparency in their own specialised area. In this way we can consolidate our efforts in going forward.

First steps

We need neutral industry authorities and we must ensure that we consolidate our efforts so that we are not duplicating work or wasting resources on work that has already been carried out by one of the other bodies. The kind of cooperation shown between the concrete organisations is therefore an important step in the right direction and shows we are making progress in the fulfillment of our combined duties to further the use of quality, fit-for-purpose concrete,” he concluded.

Planning has already begun for the next installment of the conference which is expected to become an important fixture for construction professionals with interests in concrete as a means of construction. The dates and venue are yet to be announced.

Students: start preparing now for Advanced Concrete Technology training

Students: start preparing now for Advanced Concrete Technology training

Potential candidates for The Concrete Institute’s next Advanced Concrete Technology (ACT) diploma course at the beginning of 2018 or even the following one in 2020 should immediately start their preparations for this formidable but highly respected concrete training.

That is the advice of John Roxburgh, lecturer at The Concrete Institute’s School of Concrete Technology (SCT), which presents the course every two years under the auspices of the Institute of Concrete Technology (ICT) in London.

Image: Bergmix

Roxburgh says the Advanced Concrete Technology diploma is the highest level of concrete technology training in Africa. It was originally proposed as means of formally recognising persons that had been active in the concrete and related industries for many years – and had substantial concrete technology knowledge and practical skills – for their experience in the form of a diploma. Such in-depth experience in the industry remains a prerequisite to acceptance for ACT studies and consequently the SCT has charted a route for potential, younger and less experienced, students to follow towards qualifying for ACT enrolment.

John Roxburgh, lecturer at The Concrete Institute’s School of Concrete Technology: “There are no short cuts to obtaining an Advanced Concrete Technology diploma, so start preparing now,” he urges potential students

South Africa urgently needs more qualified concrete technologists but be warned: there are no short cuts to gaining this ultimate diploma of competence. To be successful, requires a slow and steady maturation of concrete technology knowledge and hands on practice over a number of years,” Roxburgh cautions.

The SCT therefore recommends – and offers – a progressive approach to ACT training through selected courses that are of increasing technological content along with a more detailed study of various fields in concrete. Practical application of concrete technology is an essential component in concrete technology education. The SCT recommends that a prospective ACT candidate ensures that substantial time between courses is given to on-site application of the technology taught in their courses.

The School therefore encourages students to enrol at the SCT to complete the ICT’s Stage 2 (Concrete technology and construction: General principles) and Stage 3 (Concrete technology and construction: Practical applications). This will then ensure sufficient theoretical knowledge plus practical on site experience before considering enrolling for the formidable ACT programme,” Roxburgh adds.

To obtain the ACT diploma, passing two three-hour examinations, along with the acceptance of a satisfactory research project, must be achieved.

Over the past 26 years, a total of 79 candidates have successfully obtained an ACT diploma through the education provided by the SCT. For these graduates, the ACT diploma has opened up many doors within the concrete and concrete related industries, many of whom now occupy top leadership positions.

Roxburgh urges those interested in studying for an ACT diploma to contact the School of Concrete Technology as soon as possible to discuss an appropriate approach, based on individual needs and experience, towards successfully enrolling for and obtaining this prestigious diploma.

For more details, contact John Roxburgh on email johnr@theconcreteinstitute.org.za or phone 011 315 0300.