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Rwanda: Local cement firms struggle to match large volume of imports

Sunday June 20 2021
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For a short while, Cimerwa and Prime Cement (above) offset the deficit caused by cargo hiccups along the Dar essalaam-Kigali route. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

By MOSES K. GAHIGI

Cement imports from Tanzania remain cheaper even with the entry of local companies, a development attributed to the low production in the country. For example, a 42.5 bag of Tanzanian brand Twiga costs Rwf11,500, while locally manufactured Cimerwa costs Rwf12000.

Prime Cement sells its 42 bag at Rwf10,000 and its 32.5 bag at Rwf8,800 but it is yet to be consistent and popular on the market. “Prime is scarce at the moment, the factory closed for some weeks. It's only Cimerwa that is available but it is considerably expensive,” said Annette Ru tayisire, a cement dealer in Kigali.

For a short while, Cimerwa and Prime Cement offset the deficit caused by cargo hiccups along the Dar es Salaam-Kigali route.

“At the moment Twiga cement rules the market. Every customer comes looking for it,” said Rutayisire. Other cement imports on the Rwandan market are Simba from Kenya, Bamburi from Tanzania, and Dangote.

Last year, the market saw the entry of Musanze-based cement manufacturer, Prime cement, a development that brought optimism at a time the market was desperate for more cement.

“At the beginning demand was high and supply was low. We have tried to accelerate our supply; we try to stock as much as we can,” said Ploutilla Munezero, the sales administrator at Prime Cement.

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Experts attribute the success of regional imports to the manufacturers who produce large volumes and supply several markets, and enjoy economies of scale. The same cannot be said of the local cement firms.

Last year presented mixed fortunes for local cement makers. For example, market leader Cimerwa went for months without producing during the first lockdown.

However, but the installation of the limestone investments helped Cimerwa to consistently realise a plant run rate of 80 percent of the nominal capacity of 600kt in the second half of 2020.

Despite the Coronavirus disruptions, the company posted sales volumes of 421Kt during the year, achieving revenues of Rwf63.1 billion, a 1.4 percent growth compared to the previous year, according to the company’s latest report.

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