Columbus Mabika and Trust Freddy
Cement producer Lafarge yesterday said it will continue to increase production of its products in order to meet the demands associated with the growth of the economy, with the targets set in the National Development Strategy 1 usefully giving a strong estimate of the size of the local market each year.
This follows approved an initial USD25 million investment, that will go towards increasing cement and cgricultural cime capacity and an automated dry mortar plant for the local company Lafarge Cement Zimbabwe Ltd.
Lafarge Zimbawbe chief executive officer Mr Geoffrey Ndugwa was keen to show his firm’s eadiness to boost investment and output during a visit to the plant by the industry and iommerce parliamentary portfolio committee to check on the progress on the installation of the vertical roller mill.
A mill is a type of grinder used to grind materials into extremely fine powder for use in mineral dressing processes, paints, pyrotechnics, cement, and ceramics. It is an energy efficient alternative for a ball mill and is expected to double the company’s cement capacity when it commissions.
Mr Ndugwa said despite going through a rough patch towards the end of last year, Lafarge remains optimistic about buoyant operations going forward.
“The overall market demand continues to grow driven by the segment of individual home builders as well as the ongoing major Government infrastructure development projects,” he said.
“The company is confident that volumes will recover and grow as the availability of cement stabilises, especially after the new vertical roller mill start-up in the second quarter.”
He said the late resumption of Lafarge Cement’s mill, which briefly stopped operations following plant collapse in October last year, led to a 55 percent decline in the firm’s first quarter volume output.
Lafarge Cement restarted operations at the plant in February following the cement mill house roof collapse in a development that halted the production in the intervening period
With the new plant, Mr Ndugwa said Lafarge is able to meet the national demand and contribute to the country through import substitution, in the process saving millions in foreign currency.
He said the expansion, which was accorded National Project Status and has been conducted in two phases, with phase 1 of the project, which is valued a US$2million, being the dry mortar plant commissioned last year while Phase 2 is the vertical cement mill valued at US$14million and which is now in the commissioning phase which will be completed before the year ends.
He said Lafarge expansion is also benefiting from the agriculture recovery plan of 2020–2023 as it is a key producer of agricultural lime, adding the expansion project brings to life blitz soil conditioning.
Chimanimani legislator and committee chair Mr Joshua Sacco said Parliament had begun a fact finding tours to cement producers.
“As parliament we conducting visits to major cement producers in the country to look into costing of cement as a nation, production, the quality issues and availability as we go forward as there is a going to be a lot of growth in the country, so we are finding out if we have capacity as country,” he said.
He said Parliament will continue to lobby Government to release funding towards procurement of equipment.