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Huge price hikes set to hit cement

NEWS - Producers warn of soaring cement costs in the offing

CEMENT producers are warning contractors and concrete producers of huge price hikes next year.

They say rises of up to 15 per cent per tonne are inevitable after the sector was hit by a double whammy of spiralling input costs and European legislation.

The effects of these will put a further £10 per tonne on the price of both bulk and bagged cement, bringing the average cost to around £80.50 per tonne.

So far cement producers have managed to absorb energy price increases. But Castle Cement commercial director Mike Emblint said the introduction of legislation aimed at reducing skin disease in concrete workers and the working time directive meant producers had no choice but to pass on the associated price increases.

He said: 'The cement industry faces very high price increases, with coal going up by over 20 per cent and electricity by almost 50 per cent.

'But UK building and construction will also feel the effects of two pieces of European legislation that will come into force early in the new year.'

These are the Chromium VI directive, which prevents the marketing of cement products containing more than two parts per million of soluble Chromium VI, and the working time directive, which seeks to limit employees' working hours.

In order to neutralise the effects of Chromium VI, which can cause concrete burn, cement producers must add a chemical reducing agent, ferrous sulphate, to a mix.

This will add £1 per tonne to the cost of making cement through extra handling, storage and packaging.

Castle is set to invest £3 million in gearing up its plants to meet the Chromium VI legislation.

But Mr Emblin said the industry would be hardest hit by the working time directive. He warned: 'It effectively cuts our drivers'working hours from 55 to a maximum of 48 hours per week.

'We will have to take on an additional 60 drivers. In all,20 per cent of our final price is directly related to transportation costs.'