By Sami Zaptia.
London, 12 August 2020:
Tobruk port reported that the cement transport ship NS Spirit with 4,400 tons of bulk cement has arrived at its port, according to Libya’s state news agency LANA. It said the vessel will soon enter the port to unload its cargo. It also reported that the ship Malaga with 3,850 tons of bulk cement is expected to enter the port in the coming days.
The arrival of imported cement is usually a good indicator that the Libyan construction sector is booming. However, it is also an indicator that local production is failing to meet demand and that local cement prices are inflated beyond international prices.
It will be recalled that the price of local cement had risen to more than LD 75 (US$ 53) per ton at the start of this month. This compares to around LD 30 about a year ago.
The more than doubling in price is partly put to war damage to local cement factories, some of which have stopped manufacturing, but is mainly attributed to pure monopolistic speculation by those currently being described in Libya as crisis or war merchants.
While the price of locally produced cement has reached LD 75, cement imported using the hard-to-obtain hard currency is sold for only LD 60. Libya social media activists have started the Arabic hashtag “#boycott _cement” (qataoo alasmant) in response to its high prices.
The spike in cement prices comes at a critical time for Libya as it is still recovering from the 2011 revolution and the recent Khalifa Hafter war on Tripoli. Huge swathes of Greater Tripoli were damaged during the war needing much cement supply for reconstruction.
Large swathes of Benghazi and Derna were also damaged during the Khalifa Hafter-led Libyan National Army war against so-called ‘‘terrorists and Islamists’’.
It will be recalled that in normal times, Libya produces about 10 million tons of cement, and according to World Bank data, Libya needs about US$ 200 billion over 10 years for reconstruction.