Cement production was on the rise during the period when the industry began lobbying for coal imports, according to new data from state statistics agency CAPMAS.
Egypt’s cement industry was among the loudest voice calling on the government to overturn a ban on importing coal, with industry figures citing dramatic declines in productivity due to natural gas shortages.
The argument for coal imports largely rested on this economic imperative: Egypt needed more energy to keep production from falling further, and coal was the cheapest and most readily available fuel. In April 2014, the cabinet elected to allow coal to be imported for industrial use and power generation.
At the same time lobbying efforts intensified, figures from CAPMAS indicate that Egypt’s cement industry was growing. Between 2010/11 and 2012/13, cement production increased by 11.5 percent.
“Despite the crisis that they made us think there was, and that the media led us to believe in, it is apparent that the cement sector as a whole has increased its production,” said Ahmed Droubi, coordinator of Egyptians Against Coal. “They will complain about shortages to an individual factory, while perhaps the sector as a whole didn’t see a decrease in fossil fuels.”
Exports, in particular, boomed, more than doubling to reach 1.623 million tons in 2012/13, compared to just 745,000 tons in 2010/11, a trend CAPMAS attributes to the opening of new markets in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Libya.
“At the end, what they are doing is importing coal for the Egyptian people to subsidize the use of cement in other countries with our health and with our future,” says Droubi.
In related news, Egypt’s Minister of Supply announced Sunday that cement production remains in surplus, with more of the building material being produced than the local market can absorb.
According to CAPMAS, the rise in production between 2010/11 and 2012/13 was largely due to new cement producers entering the market in early 2012. So, while the industry rose overall, production could have fallen for established factories.
In the months preceding the decision to overturn the ban on coal imports, individual companies predicted fuel shortages would diminish production by as much as 30 percent in 2013. Representatives of the cement industry did not respond to requests for comment on the CAPMAS report.
This content was produced in partnership with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.