Cement import quota battle in Trinidad High Court

An application for an injunction seeking to block the Trinidad and Tobago government’s move to introduce a quota on imported cement and a proposal to increase the import duty to 50 per cent is set to being heard by a High Court judge.

In the application St Lucia-based Rock Hard Distribution Ltd and its local affiliate Rock Hard Distributors of T&T are challenging the moves made by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, which they claim would cripple them.

In November last year, the ministry took a decision to cap the annual importation of cement at 75,000 tonnes.

The Government also wrote to Caricom’s Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) seeking the further suspension of the five per cent Common External Tariff (CET) for hydraulic cement, and indicated its intention to apply 50 per cent duty.

The quota and a new import licensing registration system went into effect on January 1.

Attached to the application is an affidavit from Rock Hard’s executive chairman Mark Maloney, who sought to explain the dire impact on the company, which imports its hydraulic cement from Turkey.

According to Maloney prior to Rock Hard’s entry into the regional cement market almost four years ago, Mexican-owned Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) had a monopoly due to the high tariffs on Portland cement.

“Within the first six to 12 months of the entry of Rock Hard Cement into the market the price of cement dropped by about 35 to 40 per cent and that drop has been sustained over the past four years,” Maloney said.