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Israeli cement producers cry foul over imports from Greece and Turkey

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World Cement,

According to a report from journalist Yuval Azulay in Israeli business newspaper, Globes (in Hebrew), the Trades Levies Commissioner at the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry, Danny Tal, has opened an investigation into the import of large quantities of cement from Turkey and Greece into the Israeli market. The investigation comes on the back of a complaint by Israeli cement maker, Melet Har Tuv.

A competitor for Nesher

Melet Har Tuv was purchased in 2015 by the Weil family following an agreement between the Israeli Antitruct Authorities and Ministries of Finance and of the Economy and Industry and Nesher, Israel’s leading cement producer, in an attempt to open up the Israeli cement market to competition.

Nesher and Melet Har Tuv are the only cement manufacturers in Israel, but a number of companies import into the country, including Ciment I.S. of the Israel Shipyards Group, Rabia Noufi, and Lev Baron Commodities. Following the sale of Melet Har Tuv, Nesher dropped its prices by 2%.

Melet Har Tuv’s complaint to the Trades Levies Commissioner centres on the allegation that large quantities of cheap cement from Turkey and Greece are being dumped on the Isreali market, undermining the Israeli domestic producers. An initial complaint by Melet Har Tuv was rejected on the basis that it did not hold enough market share. The Trade Levies Commissioner stipulates that the opening of an investigation into dumping requires complainents to represent at least 25% of the market; Melet Har Tuv held only 10% of the market at the time.

However, in April, Nesher, agreed to support Melet Har Tuv’s complaint, resulting in Melet Har Tuv resubmitting it to the Trades Levies Commission. According to date provided by Melet Har Tuv, the Israeli cement makers market share has dropped substantially following the increase in imports: Nesher has seen its share drop from 75% to 65%, while Melet Har Tuv’s share has dropped to just 5.8% - a 38% fall.

"I got the impression that there are findings showing an actual injury to the company's operations in general, to its market share, to profitability, and to prices specifically", the Trades Levies Commissioner's decision stated: "The apparent injury to these material parameters is enough to establish, at this stage, a suspicion of actual damage which requires a more thorough examination, which will be made in the course of an investigation proceeding".

"As a company which was founded with the intent to encourage competition in the cement market, we welcome any competition, provided that it is done under fair conditions", Melet Har Tuv told Globes, following the decision to open an investigation: "At the current prices in the Mediterranean Basin in general – and in the countries with which the complaint is concerned – Melet Har Tuv is competitive for any import whatsoever. The company has submitted the complaint against cement importers from Greece and Turkey to preserve the competition in the market over time.”

"We would be reverting to the same situation"

However, other elements in the cement market warn that the imposition of a dumping levy, at an amount of 126%/t of cement imported from Turkey and Greece, would kill the competition created in the market in the last two years.

"Former Minister of Industry and Trade, Ehud Olmert, in 2003 imposed a dumping levy on cement imported to Israel from Lafarge. In the following years, the price of cement in Israel increased by 30%, while in the rest of the world the price decreased by 5%. If it is decided to impose such a levy again, we would be reverting to the exact same situation: importers will stop importing, manufacturers will hike up prices, and the public will pay dearly", warned one market participant.

An original version of this article was first published in Globes. The article is re-used with permission.

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