Cement industry seeks support to boost demand, export

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Kathmandu, Nov. 25: Citing the growing production and decreasing demands in the domestic market owing to the sluggish development and construction, President of Cement Manufacturers Association (CMA) of Nepal, Dhruba Thapa, has urged the government and stakeholders to create a favourable environment for increasing the export and consumption of cement. 

The country's cement industry has an annual production capacity of 22 million tons while demand has gone down to 9 million tons a year last year. Industry estimates tell that the production capacity would rise to 25 tons a year by 2024. 

"Cement production plants are running at a rate of only about 25 per cent of their capacity, this is an alarming situation so we need to increase the domestic demand by various means and seek export opportunities in bordering Indian provinces," said Thapa while speaking at a programme jointly organised on Thursday by Technology and Action for Rural Advancement (TARA) India, CMA Nepal, Minergy and IIDS Nepal to inform the domestic cement producers about LC3 – a new technology in cement production. 

Cement producers have long been urging the government to expedite the development projects, and mobilise capital budget in effective ways to consume more cement. 

"Using concrete while constructing roads will be beneficial in the long-term. Exporting cement is another solution. There is a huge cement market in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, two neighbouring provinces of India," said Thapa. 

Two cement companies – Arghakhanchi and Tansen cement industries - have exported cement to India. Meanwhile, through the budget of the current Fiscal Year 2022/23, the government of Nepal has announced 8 per cent cash incentives on the export of cement.  

Till 2000, the cement production was the government domain, and the private sector began to invest in the sector with the beginning of the new millennia, and within a period of two decades, the country has become self-reliant in cement. "We have begun to export cement to India as well from this fiscal year 2022/23. Industries are upgrading their manufacturing practice as per the standards set by India in order to export cement there. It will take six to seven months," Thapa stated. 

This is the process to produce cement as per the Indian standard guidelines.

The LC3 (Limestone Calcined Clay Cement) is a family of composite cements containing portland clinker, calcined clay and limestone. According to Prof. Karen Scrivener of EPFL Switzerland, this technology promises a sustainable growth of economies by reducing up to 40 per cent carbon dioxide emission compared to Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) at lower investment and production costs. 

She said in her virtual address to the programme that LC3 uses raw materials and technologies that are already used by the cement industries while the production process is also similar to the way of producing normal cement. 

Stating that cement manufacturers in Nepal are mulling over reducing the production of cost of cement while being environment-friendly, Thapa said that the new technology holds importance in terms of environment protection, and reduction in import of raw materials like slag. 

Secretary of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies (MoICS), Dr. Toya Narayan Gyawali, said that the government would look into the prospects of the new technology and consult with the stakeholders if there would be a need to create new standards of the product. 

"This is a good initiative. The LC3 seems appropriate for the Least Developed Countries due to its features like less emission, low cost and high efficiency as said by the experts," he noted.  

Silvana Hogg, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Switzerland in Nepal, said environment smart technologies should be adopted and promoted. 

The main raw material in LC3 is kaolinitic clay. Clays containing 40 per cent to 60 per cent kaolinite are ideal for the production of this cement while even reddish clays with high iron content are suitable. Such clays are available in abundance in India and Nepal. This technology uses half the energy required for clinker production. 

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