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Editorial comment

There has been a lot of gloomy talk this year about the state of the worldwide cement industry. Hardly surprising – just look at the number of cement plants that have been closed, or temporarily shutdown, around the world. Worldwide trading of cement and clinker by sea has decreased by about 14.7%, according to a new report from OneStone Intelligence (see September issue of WORLD CEMENT).


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There has been a lot of gloomy talk this year about the state of the worldwide cement industry. Hardly surprising – just look at the number of cement plants that have been closed, or temporarily shutdown, around the world. Worldwide trading of cement and clinker by sea has decreased by about 14.7%, according to a new report from OneStone Intelligence (see September issue of WORLD CEMENT). The total trade volume decreased from 159 million t in 2007 to 140 million t last year, of which cement constituted 91 million t and clinker 49 million t. Today, about 70 million t of cement is said to be transported by sea, or 77% of world cement trade, and for clinker the figure is 82%.

Until recently, one part of the world that had remained unaffected, but is now feeling the squeeze, is the Middle East, or rather a part of it. A recent MEED Insight publication (GCC Cement 2009) reports that the cement supply in the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is forecast to outstrip demand for the first time since 2005. This is the result of a significant rise in capacity and a downturn in regional projects. In fact, this has been discussed at conferences and meetings over the past couple of years or so, and certainly long before the start of the current world financial crisis. The report indicates falling demand with over US$400 billion worth of contracts cancelled or postponed. With a slowdown in construction in the UAE, especially in Dubai, there is a greater emphasis on exports. Having been a net importer since the 1950s, the region is set to become a net exporter for the first time. Now it is a question of consolidation and a careful handling of inventories. Escaping this situation to a certain extent are the states of Bahrain and Qatar where the market remains under-served, and a fall in demand will make little or no difference.

Saudi Arabia remains resilient, and continues to move ahead with significant investment in infrastructure and housing. In July, domestic cement dispatches remained strong at over 3 million t, for the fourth consecutive month. The Saudi cement companies are demanding that the government lift the ban on cement exports. This was imposed in 2008 and has prevented the kingdom from establishing a viable GCC and African market. However, the government has relaxed the ban in certain cases and, in fact, just over 100 000 t of cement were exported in June. Northern Region Cement accounted for a major share of this figure, and now approval has been given to Tabuk Cement to export 200 000 t over three months from July.

These figures are minimal compared to the stocks of 10 million t that the Saudi Arabian cement companies claim they have. Presumably with all that cement waiting to be shifted and storage capacity running out, they are having to ease back on production, and that means key people in the companies will have more time to read this issue of Bulk Materials Handling Review! Here they will find another collection of special articles that cover handling, loading, storing and packing, plus some other topics that we have introduced into this year’s issue. When they have finished digesting this supplement, there is always WORLD CEMENT, and judging by the articles currently being prepared for the remainder of this year, plus the subjects listed in our 2010 Media Brochure (now available), there is plenty of good stuff to look forward to!