Cement, cassava flour, sugar top issues in Q2

by | July 14, 2014 12:00 am

The second quarter (Q2) of the year was mostly characterised by the hurly-burly of cement standardisation or grading, which was carried over from the first quarter (Q1).

Since February this year, there has been a fierce war over which cement grade should be used for general purpose construction. This began with an allegation from some quarters that 32.5R/N produced by Lafarge Wapco, the United Cement Company of Nigeria (UniCem), Ashaka Cement (AshakaCem) and the Cement Company of Northern Nigeria (CCNN) was responsible for building collapses across the country.

Given that a matter as critical as building collapse cannot be toyed with, the majority of professionals such as structural engineers, architects and the like, spoke up. Most of the professionals disagreed that 32.5 cement grade, which has been in use in the country for over 50 years, was responsible for building collapses, saying that the problem lies with application.

However, during the period, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), in its wisdom, published a directive stating that cement with strength rating 52.5R be used for bridges; 42.5R for casting of columns, beams, slabs and for moulding blocks; and 32.5 for plastering only. Lafarge and its group felt that the SON was unfair, given that no scientific research ever confirmed that 32.5 was linked with building collapses. Thus, they moved straight to court to seek legal redress.

However, the House of Representatives set up a committee to look into the issues. The committee released its reports recently, with a recommendation that 42.5 should serve as the minimum standard for construction works, given that it is less susceptible to misapplication and most stakeholders would prefer it to 32.5, if given an opportunity to choose between the two. Currently, the issues are still fresh and industry analysts are watching to see where they might lead the industry to.

Within the period under review, Aliko Dangote, president of Dangote Group, announced the company’s intention to invest $250 million in Jigawa State in September. Flour Mills has also continued its expansion projects and is gradually gaining traction in the country’s sugar market.

Also, as the Federal Government’s December 2014 deadline, which mandates 5 percent cassava inclusion in wheat flour used by flour milling firms approaches, some key players has expressed doubts over availability of high quality cassava flour.

“We face the challenge of high quality cassava flour availability. The truth today is that we have doubt as to the ability of our partners (cassava processors) to meet up with the supply of high quality cassava. We are already seeing these signs because we see defunct in delivery on orders,’’ said Lanre Jaiyeola, managing director/CEO, Honeywell Flour Mills plc.